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Man charged with killing 2 Muslim men in Albuquerque denies involvement, documents say

Arrest made in killings of Muslim men
Police detain suspect in killings of Muslim men 02:37

The man who has been charged with killing two Muslim men in New Mexico's largest city told authorities he was not involved in their deaths, court documents show. The documents, obtained by CBS News on Wednesday, also provide new information that police say points to Muhammad Syed's involvement.

Syed is charged with killing Aftab Hussein and Muhammud Afzaal Hussain. Aftab Hussein was shot while getting out of his car on July 26, and Muhammud Afzaal Hussain was killed days later while walking down a sidewalk, authorities said. Multiple rounds were fired in both shootings, which authorities previously described as ambush-style attacks.

Syed, 51, was pulled over in a gray Volkswagen Jetta about 100 miles from his Albuquerque home late Monday night. He allegedly told authorities he was going to Houston "to find a new place for his family to live because the situation in Albuquerque was bad." Syed said he heard about the shootings on the news. 

Authorities discuss the arrest of Muhammad Syed, who is accused of killing two Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico. CBS News

He had clothing, shoes and a pistol or handgun with him at the time, according to the documents. 

During an early morning interview on Tuesday, he told authorities that he knew Hussain since 2016 and recognized Hussein from parties, according to the documents. But he denied any involvement in their deaths.

He also confirmed to police that he was the owner of the Jetta, which matched an earlier description of the shooting suspect's car, the documents said. Syed also said he owned an AK-47 rifle, which he kept under his bed, as well as a 9mm handgun, which authorities found in his car.

Authorities took Syed's rifle during a search of his Albuquerque home, and testing found that rifle had fired the casings found at the scenes of both murders, the documents said. Authorities said they were also able to link his handgun to spent casings found at the scene of one of the murders, as well as to casings located in the space between the windshield and the hood of his Jetta.

Police said they were able to confirm that Syed had purchased the two weapons, as well as a scope for the AK-47, within the past year and a half. And one of his sons, named Shaheen Syed, told authorities during an interview that neither he nor his siblings had ever touched their fathers' weapons. 

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors charged Shaheen Syed with providing a false Florida address when he bought two rifles last year, The Associated Press reported. He was not charged in connection with the murders, and court documents showed he told authorities he did not kill the men, according to AP. Albuquerque police confirmed that Shaheen Syed was in federal custody Wednesday night.

Mugshot of Muhammad Syed, 51, who was charged with murdering two Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Bernalillo County (New Mexico) Metropolitan Detention Center

Prior to his arrest, Albuquerque police said they, as well as the FBI, received "multiple" tips connecting Syed — who identified himself to authorities as a former member of the Special Forces in Afghanistan that fought the Taliban — to the shootings. 

Although Syed has only been charged in two murders, authorities said Tuesday they are investigating whether he was involved in two other recent murders of Muslim men. Naeem Hussain was killed in Albuquerque on Aug. 5 and Mohammed Zaher Ahmadi was killed on Nov. 7, 2021.

Syed made his first court appearance on Wednesday. Appearing virtually, he was shackled and wore a jumpsuit that said "HIGH RISK" on the back, the AP reported. He did not speak and was not asked to enter a plea.

The prosecutor is asking Syed be held without bond pending trial. A judge in a state district court will consider the motion, according to the AP.

"He is a very dangerous person, and the only way to protect the community is to hold the defendant in custody," prosecutors said in court documents.

The shootings have left the local Muslim community on edge.

In a Tuesday statement, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) thanked law enforcement for the arrest and wrote that it hopes "the news that this violence has been brought to an end will provide the New Mexico Muslim community some sense of relief and security."

"Although we are waiting to learn more about these crimes, we are disturbed by early indications that the alleged killer may have been targeting particular members of the Shia community," the statement read. "If this is true, it is completely unacceptable, and we encourage law enforcement to file any appropriate hate crime charges against the suspect."

Law enforcement officials have not disclosed a motive for the killings.

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