Imam, assistant gunned down near New York mosque
NEW YORK – Agence France-Presse
REUTERS photoA gunman shot and killed a New York imam and his assistant near their mosque in the borough of Queens during a brazen attack carried out in broad daylight Aug. 13.
Police said the imam, identified as Maulama Akonjee, 55, and his assistant, 64-year-old Thara Uddin, were shot just before 2 p.m. in the Ozone Park neighborhood.
The working class area, on the border between Queens and Brooklyn, is home to many Muslim families from Bangladesh.
Both men were taken to nearby Jamaica Hospital with gunshot wounds and were pronounced dead there.
The shooting comes amid a climate of growing Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment as a series of deadly attacks have unfolded in the United States and abroad, some of which have been claimed by the Islamic State group, and Republican presidential contender Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.
The two men were approached from behind by a suspect, who witnesses saw fleeing the scene with a gun, according to police. The street on which they were killed is called Liberty Avenue.
Officers said the individual is still at large and the investigation is ongoing.
U.S. media reported that the men were shot after leaving the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque after afternoon prayers, dressed in traditional Muslim garb.
However, police said the motive is unknown and no arrests have been made.
“There is nothing in the preliminary investigation to indicate that they were targeted because of their faith,” police told journalists.
But Sarah Sayeed of the New York mayor’s office insisted that “the NYPD is looking at all angles of this crime, including the hate crime [angle].”
Kobir Chowdhury, who heads the nearby Masjid Al-Aman mosque in Brooklyn, said: “Please, read my lips. This is a hate crime, no matter which way you look at it.
“It’s hate against humanity, it’s hate against Muslims, these are Islamophobes who are causing these kind of troubles.”