NEW YORK (AP) – The leader of a New York City mosque and an associate were fatally shot in a brazen daylight attack as they left afternoon prayers Saturday.
Police said 55-year-old Imam Maulama Akonjee and his 64-year-old associate, Thara Uddin, were shot in the back of the head as they left the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in the Ozone Park section of Queens shortly before 2 p.m.
Both men were pronounced dead later Saturday, an administrator at Jamaica Hospital said.
Police said no motive has been established and there is no reason to believe the men were shot because they were Muslim. No suspects are in custody.
“There’s nothing in the preliminary investigation to indicate that they were targeted because of their faith,” said Deputy Inspector Henry Sautner of the New York Police Department.
But members of the Bangladeshi community served by the mosque said they want the shootings to be treated as a hate crime.
Scores of people attending a rally at the shooting site Saturday night chanted “We want justice!”
Shahin Chowdhury, a worshipper at the mosque, said members of the community had felt animosity lately, with people cursing while passing the mosque. He said he had advised fellow community members to be careful walking around, especially when in traditional clothing.
He called the imam a “wonderful person” with a voice that made his Koran readings especially compelling.
Another worshipper, Millat Uddin, said he felt the community had been targeted. “Somebody has taken the law in their own hands,” said Uddin, who is not related to Thara Uddin.
Uddin said Akonjee had led the mosque for about two years and was a very pious man.
“The community’s heart is totally broken,” he said. “It’s a great misery. It’s a great loss to the community and it’s a great loss to the society.”
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