Possible serial killer targeting Muslim men in New Mexico

Police in Albuquerque, New Mexico, are investigating a possible serial killer case involving three young Muslim men who were shot to death within a 5-mile radius over the past nine months.

Each slaying was an ambush outside during evening hours, and it doesn't appear that the men knew each other. Police are working with the FBI and are open to the idea that these could be hate crime killings, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

"While we won't go into all the specifics of why we think that, there's one strong commonality in all victims: the race and religion," Deputy Cmdr. Kyle Hartsock with the Albuquerque Police Department said Thursday. "We are taking this very seriously. We want the public's help in identifying this cowardly individual."

All three men reportedly were immigrants who worked hard to make better lives for themselves in America. One man wanted to bring his fiancee to Albuquerque from Pakistan and start a family.

"We can't call it a [hate crime] until we have someone identified and really know what their intention is in doing this," Hartsock said. "And we don't know enough yet to clearly say that — but that could change."

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The first murder, of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, occurred in November behind a cafe and market he owned with his brother. The two men emigrated from Afghanistan in the 1980s to escape violence there.

Aftab Hussein, 41, was the second victim. He was shot on July 26 in the parking lot of his apartment complex.

"He was very happy. He said, ‘I'll go to Pakistan and get married and bring my wife here,' and he said, ‘I'll make my life,' you know," said friend Iftikhar Amirjan. "He said, ‘I'll buy a house later on and have children.'"

Then, on Monday, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, stepped outside his apartment to take a walk and make a phone call. He was shot on the street. Hussain was originally from India and moved to the area to attend grad school at the University of New Mexico, where he majored in community and regional planning.

While police investigate the murders, the Islamic Center of New Mexico is helping the community cope with the men's deaths.

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"The community certainly is in need of understanding the egregiousness of the conduct displayed in all three of these shootings," said Ahmad Assed, president of the Islamic Center. "If it's true that we were targeted as Muslims, then they need to be very vigilant in protecting themselves and taking measures of precaution. They need to watch out for their surroundings."

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