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Afghan refugee faces murder charge in third Muslim killing

This photo released Aug. 9, 2022, by the Albuquerque Police Department shows Muhammad Syed. Syed.
AP
This photo released Aug. 9, 2022, by the Albuquerque Police Department shows Muhammad Syed. Syed.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Afghan refugee charged in the slayings of two Muslim men is facing new charges in connection with the shooting death of another man in the parking lot of a refugee resettlement agency earlier this month.

A grand jury indicted Muhammad Syed in the three killings Monday. He's also a suspect in the shooting death of a Muslim shop owner in November 2021, but he has yet to be charged in that case.

The indictment includes the deaths of Aftab Hussein and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain. Hussein, 41, was slain on the night of July 26 after parking his car in the usual spot near his home. Afzaal Hussain, a 27-year-old urban planner who had worked on the campaign of a New Mexico congresswoman, was gunned down on Aug. 1 while taking his evening walk.

In the Aug. 5 killing, authorities have accused Syed of shooting Naeem Hussain as he sat in his vehicle outside Lutheran Family Services, the resettlement agency, following funeral services for two of the other shooting victims. Shots were fired at Hussain's SUV around 4 p.m., striking him in the head and the arm.

Syed, 51, has denied any involvement in the killings that shook New Mexico's Muslim community, and his defense attorneys argued during a court hearing last week that he had no criminal record since previous domestic violence cases against him were not pursued.

Prosecutors argued that Syed was a dangerous man. A state district agreed, ordering Syed to be held without bond pending trial.

The indictment made public Monday also includes four counts of tampering with evidence related to the three killings that Syed has been charged with.

"Our homicide detectives continue to work with prosecutors to ensure all victims receive justice in this tragic case," Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said in a statement.

Syed's public defenders declined to comment on the latest charges.

Albuquerque police detectives obtained surveillance video that showed a gray sedan fleeing the scene after Naeem Hussain was shot. Tips from the public and additional surveillance video helped detectives identify the vehicle and they named Syed as the owner of the car.

Syed was arrested Aug. 8 more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from his Albuquerque home. He told authorities he was on his way to Texas, citing the ambush-style killings as his concern.

According to the initial criminal complaint filed by Albuquerque police, investigators determined that bullet casings found in Syed's vehicle matched the caliber of the weapons believed to have been used in the July 26 and Aug. 1 killings and that casings found at the crime scenes were linked to guns found at Syed's home and in his vehicle.

Federal authorities in court filings have pointed to cellphone records and accused one of Syed's sons of possibly helping his father track Naeem Hussain before he was killed. Shaheen Syed's attorney has argued that those accusations were thin and dismissed prosecutors' claims that the younger Syed provided a false address when purchasing a gun from a local shop in 2021.

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The Associated Press