ALBUQUERQUE, NM — One of four Muslim men murdered in New Mexico in recent months has previously confronted the man charged with two of the murders, a brother of the victim said in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
Mohammad Zaher Ahmadi, 62, was fatally shot outside the Ariana Halal Market & Caffe on Nov. 7 – about two years after Ahmadi confronted suspect Mohammed Syed, 51, about what he considered to be a plan involving their products, Ahmadi’s brother, Shareef Hadi said.
Syed has not been charged in Ahmadi’s death, but authorities have said he is the prime suspect in the murder. Syed is also a suspect in the August 5 murder of Naeem Hussain, 25.
Syed was charged Wednesday with the murder of 41-year-old Aftab Hussein on July 26 and the murder of Mohammed Afzaal Hussain on August 27.
Hadi, who owned and operated the store with Ahmadi, said Syed bought large quantities of rice and then tried to sell the item back to the brothers at a profit.
Ahmadi told Hadi he “didn’t like people like that” and started turning Syed away, Hadi said.
‘My brother said, ‘Don’t come in. I don’t want any business with you,” Hadi said.
NBC News was unable to verify Hadi’s account. Syed’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Syed stopped visiting the store, but in early 2020, Hadi and his wife left Friday services at the New Mexico Islamic Center in Albuquerque and found two of their tires deflated.
On closer inspection, the tires appeared to have been cut, Hadi said. The couple reported the incident to the mosque and were later shown a surveillance video from the parking lot showing a man cutting the tires.
The mosque later identified the man as Syed, Hadi said.
In a separate interview, Ahmad Assed, president of the Islamic Center, confirmed Hadi’s story and said Syed was temporarily banned from services following the incident. He eventually returned without incident, Assed said.
“We let him know he was not welcome and gave him a few months to consider coming back,” Assed said. “We kept our distance from the suspect and didn’t let him come for a long time.”
Syed’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Still, Assed said he and many within Albuquerque’s tight-knit Muslim community were shocked when Syed was identified as a suspect in the murders.
“It pushed us back a bit,” he said. “We are a small community and we know each other.”
For Hadi, who immigrated to the United States from Afghanistan in the 1980s with his brother and lived in Philadelphia before settling in Albuquerque, his brother’s murder shocked him.
The two were close, he said, and he remembered Ahmadi as a “great chef” who enjoyed cooking American dishes, as well as the cuisine of his native country. Ahmadi once looked after 800 people over the course of a weekend, Hadi said.
Ahmadi was the first of four Muslim men killed in Albuquerque, and his death haunts Hadi, who said he can still imagine the overturned chair, discarded cigarettes and bloodstains left behind after Ahmadi was shot in the head after the closing. from their store.
Hadi has kept the shop open to keep the memory of his brother alive – though the door remains locked and Hadi only lets in customers he knows or who have called ahead of time.
“He was incredible,” Hadi said. “All I have now are the memories of my brother. I can not take it.”
Alicia Victoria Lozano reported from Albuquerque. Tim Stelloh reported from Fort Bragg, California.