ALBUQUERQUE — Police in the US city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, said they arrested their “primary suspect” in the murder of four Muslim men.
Muhammad Syed, 51, was arrested on Monday and is charged with the murder of two of the men. Several firearms were recovered from his home, police said.
Police said they were working with investigators to charge the Afghan for the other two deaths.
The deaths have occurred within the past nine months.
The last three murders took place in the past two weeks.
Police Chief Harold Medina announced the breakthrough on Tuesday, saying they had located a vehicle suspected of involvement and detained the driver.
Investigators say the attacks may have been motivated by a personal conflict.
The suspect came to the United States from Afghanistan “over the past few years,” police said.
Three of the victims were from Pakistan and attended the same mosque. Officers said they were “ambushed without warning, shot and killed”.
A fourth man, Mohammad Ahmadi, from Afghanistan, was killed last November.
Kyle Hartsock, deputy commander of the police’s Criminal Investigations Division, said the suspect was arrested after his car was stopped and his home was simultaneously raided by a Swat team.
He said a public tip led to his arrest just two days after police distributed a photo of the suspect’s vehicle.
In a press release, police said during a search of Syed’s home that “detectives have uncovered evidence which shows that the attacker knew the victims to some degree and that an interpersonal conflict may have led to the shooting”.
But at Tuesday’s press conference, law enforcement did not address reports that the suspect was a Sunni Muslim who had targeted victims because he was upset about his daughter’s marriage. with a Shia Muslim.
Hartsock said, “We don’t really know if that was the actual pattern, if it was part of a pattern, or if there’s a bigger picture that we’re missing.”
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said in a statement that he hoped “the swift action will bring a heightened sense of security to so many who fear the recent shootings.”
On Monday, US President Joe Biden said he was “irritated and saddened by the horrific murders”, adding that “these hateful attacks have no place in America”.
Police did not say the attacks were hate crimes.
The search for the suspect has grown steadily in recent days after New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said she was sending additional law enforcement officers to the city to assist investigators.
Several organizations have offered significant rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect.
Ahmad Assed, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of New Mexico, told the BBC the killings were horrific for the city’s Muslim community. —BBC