Imam, Associate Gunned Down on Street in Queens: Police | NBC 10 Philadelphia
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Imam, Associate Gunned Down on Street in Queens: Police

A preliminary investigation uncovered no evidence that the two men were targeted because of their faith

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    The leader of a mosque in Queens and his associate were shot and killed Saturday afternoon after leaving their place of worship. Chris Glorioso reports. (Published Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016)

    The leader of a mosque in Queens and his associate were shot and killed Saturday afternoon while strolling home from their place of worship.

    Each was shot in the head at point-blank range in what local Muslim leaders area calling a hate crime.

    Imam Maulama Akonjee, 55, and his assistant imam, 64-year-old Thara Uddin, were rushed to a local hospital, but died from their gunshot wounds.

    Investigators hadn't established a motive for the shootings, said NYPD Deputy Inspector Hank Sautner during a news conference.

    "There's nothing in the preliminary investigation to indicate that they were targeted because of their faith," he said.

    The shootings occurred at about 1: 50 p.m. about two blocks from the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in the Ozone Park neighborhood. The mosque serves a community of Bangladeshi immigrants.

    Akonjee and Uddin, both dressed in Islamic attire, were approached from behind and shot by a lone gunman, wearing a dark polo shirt and short pants, police said.

    Witnesses told police they saw the armed assailant flee.

    The Council on American-Islamic Relations quickly condemned the shootings.

    "The perpetrator of these senseless killings must be swiftly apprehended and face the full force of the law," said CAIR-NY Executive Director Afaf Nasher. "We ask anyone with information about this attack to contact appropriate law enforcement authorities."

    Mayor Bill de Blasio dispatched his senior liaison with the Muslim community to the scene, said Eric Phillips, the mayor's press secretary.

    "While it is too early to tell what led to these murders, it is certain that the NYPD will stop at nothing to ensure justice is served," he said.

    More than 100 people attending a rally at the shooting site Saturday night chanted "We want justice!" Many said they want the shootings to be treated as a hate crime.

    "I don't think it's a coincidence that it's two of the main officials in the mosque," said Mahfuza Haque, a friend of the imam's family.

    Editor's Note: A previous version of this article listed an incorrect age for Thara Uddin. He is 64.