The Muslim community in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was terrified by seemingly random gunshot murders, but police say the Muslim suspect they arrested could have been motivated by a sectarian dispute.
Law enforcement officials began to suspect that murders of four Muslim men in Albuquerque since November were related to each other and warned the Muslim community to stay alert to the possible threat.
Within days, they had identified a suspect based on tips from the public about a vehicle they believed was present during some of the murders.
In a media briefing on Tuesday, Albuquerque Police Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock told reporters that they had arrested 51-year-old Muhammad Syed on suspicion of his involvement with at least two of the murders.
Hartsock said Syed would be charged with two of the murders based on guns that they found in his car and in his residence. They also found other guns at his residence that are undergoing testing.
The suspect is believed to have known some of the victims, but he might have been motivated by anger over his daughter marrying a member of the Sunni sect of Islam when he is a part of the Shiite sect.
Syed had been arrested for criminal incidents in the past including several related to domestic violence.
A spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations was quick to point out in a statement to the New York Times that sectarian Muslim violence is rare in the U.S.
“Like Protestants and Catholics, the Sunni and Shia communities in this country live near each other, work with each other and marry each other in peace,” said CAIR deputy director Edward Ahmed Mitchell. “There is no significant history of violence at all in the U.S. between Shias and Sunnis.”
CAIR had posted a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, but they had also excoriated the attacks as motivated by hatred of race and religion.
Police said it was too soon to say whether Syed might be charged with a hate crime or whether they would label him a serial killer.
Here’s more about the arrest of the primary suspect:
Suspect arrested in murders of Albuquerque Muslim men