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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Police in New Mexico’s largest city are trying to determine if the ambush shooting deaths of three Muslim men over the past nine months could be connected.

Albuquerque police have confirmed that local detectives and federal law enforcement officers are looking for possible ties among the separate crimes.

Two of the men — Muhammed Afzaal Hussain, 27, and Aftab Hussein, 41 — were killed in the past week, and both were from Pakistan and members of the same mosque. The third case involves the November killing of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, a Muslim man of South Asian descent.

Deputy Police Commander Kyle Hartsock wouldn’t share specifics, but he said the commonality among the victims is race and religion.

“We are taking this very seriously. We want the public’s help in identifying this cowardly individual,” Hartsock said during a news conference Thursday in front of the Islamic Center of New Mexico.

The governor, Albuquerque’s mayor and civil rights groups have raised concerns, saying violence against members of the community based on race or religion will not be tolerated.

Hartsock reiterated that authorities can’t say yet if the shootings were hate crimes until they have identified a suspect and can determine a motive.

The killings came as Albuquerque is on pace for another record-setting year of homicides.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations on Friday offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the shooting deaths. The council is the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.

“If a bias-motive is determined, state and federal authorities should apply appropriate hate crime charges,” said Nihad Awad, the director of the national group.

The two most recent killings were in southeast Albuquerque. Ahmadi was killed behind the market and cafe he owned with his brother.

“In all three cases, the victims were ambushed with no warning, fired on and killed,” Hartsock said.

Ahmad Assed, the president of Islamic Center of New Mexico, said he didn’t believe the three victims knew one another, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

“The community certainly is in need of understanding the egregiousness of the conduct displayed in all three of theses shootings,” Assed said at a news conference. “If it’s true that we were targeted as Muslims, then they need to be very vigilant in protecting themselves and taking measures of precaution. They need to watch out for their surroundings.”

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Lions move training camp to Ford Field; Chark competes

DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Lions held training camp at Ford Field on Saturday, hoping it is a step toward gaining home-field advantage this season.

Last year, the Lions went 3-13-1 and had the lowest home attendance numbers of any team in the NFL. In the past four years, they’ve won a total of nine home games.

The Lions usually hold camp in Allen Park but instead held their annual scrimmage at Ford Field, where 18,000 fans packed into their stadium, the most at the event since 2015.

“This is unbelievable,” coach Dan Campbell said to the crowd before practice. “I can’t believe you guys.”

The optimism doesn’t come out of nowhere. After starting last season 0-10-1, the Lions finished by winning three of their final six games, including three consecutive wins at home.

“The last three home games we had, there was a good vibe,” Campbell said. “We could feel it as players and coaches. I would say they’ve picked up right where they left off, you know? That isn’t easy to do. Sitting there at the end of the year, we got no wins, then we get a win, you get two. Listen, that’s a credit to our fans. They got hope.”

Detroit spent the offseason trying to build off that finish, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The Lions drafted Alabama wideout Jameson Williams with the 12th overall pick and signed former Pro Bowl receiver DJ Chark in free agency.

While Williams remains sidelined with a torn ACL suffered in the College Football Playoff, Chark showcased his talents to the Ford Field crowd on Saturday. During the scrimmage, Chark caught four passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns, including a 33-yard score that ended practice.

“I really have big expectations for this team, definitely for this offense,” Chark said after practice. “And I want to do my best to live up to those.”

Since making the Pro Bowl in 2019, Chark has struggled to stay healthy. He missed three games for the Jacksonville Jaguars the following season, and a broken ankle caused him to miss the final game 13 games in 2021. Saturday marked his first time competing on a pro football field since that injury.

“It felt great,” Chark said. “This is my first time really being in here. Just looking around, getting the atmosphere, the fans are excited. I’m excited. It’s my first time being back on a game field since Sept. 30 or something like that, so I’m just taking it all in and enjoying it.”

Despite the optimism, Campbell knows those feelings won’t last long if the team doesn’t deliver. The Lions haven’t made the playoffs since 2016 and haven’t won a playoff game since 1992. Campbell regularly gets recognized in the Detroit area in his second year leading the Lions, but he knows the tone of those encounters will change if his team doesn’t start winning.

“It’s a lot better when you’re winning,” Campbell said. “When you’re losing, it’s, ‘Hey Coach, take this.’ We’re in a good place right now. We just got to get a little bit better. That’s what we got to do.”

NOTES: CB Jeff Okudah did not participate in Saturday’s scrimmage, marking the second straight practice he has missed. … Second-round pick DE Josh Paschal remains sidelined after undergoing sports hernia surgery in the spring, but Campbell said Paschal is ahead of schedule in his recovery. … S C.J. Moore was removed from the non-football injury list on Friday.

___

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