After US killings, Muslims are on edge

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Albuquerque business owner Mula Akbar now carries a pistol most of the time after three Muslim men he knew were ambushed and killed in New Mexico’s largest city in the last 10 days.

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He said he and other members of Albuquerque’s Muslim community are taking such precautions while police search for whoever targeted and shot dead four men of Pakistani or Afghan descent in the city since November.

Akbar said he last saw Nayeem Hossain on Friday at the burial of two other men, Muhammed Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41, who were killed on Aug. 1 and July 26, respectively.

Hossain, in his mid 20s, was shot to death hours later near Central Ave., southeast Albuquerque, like the two other men. Akbar also knew Mohammad Ahmadi, who like him was a Muslim from Afghanistan. Ahmadi was shot dead on Nov. 7, 2021, while smoking a cigarette outside a business he and his brother ran in southeast Albuquerque, Akbar said.

“People are trying to come to terms with ‘Why us?’ why specifically the Muslim community?” said Akbar, a former US State Department official, who has a concealed carry license.

Police have offered few clues as to why they think the murders are linked other than the victims’ race and religion.

At a Monday safety briefing for the University of New Mexico (UNM), Albuquerque police Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock told the public to look out for a gray or silver Volkswagen Jetta believed to be involved in the killings.

The last three killings took place close to the UNM campus, and some Pakistani students have left town for safety, said Tahir Gauba, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of New Mexico, where all four victims worshipped.

During the briefing, police recommended that worried students carry pepper spray on campus but said vigilance and watching out for one another was their best defense.

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