Imam, assistant shot dead near mosque
A GUNMAN shot and killed an imam and his assistant near their mosque in the borough of Queens in New York during a brazen attack carried out in broad daylight.
Police said the imam, identified as Maulama Akonjee, 55, and his assistant, 64-year-old Thara Uddin, were shot just before 2pm in the Ozone Park neighbourhood on August 13.
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 US.
The two men were approached from behind by a suspect, whom 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.
US media reported that the men were shot after leaving the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque after prayers.
However, police said the motive is unknown.
“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 said, “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.”
During a vigil, the faithful prayed outside the mosque.
“Imagine your father gunned down for no reason, and then let that feeling, let that motivate you to come out of your silence,” said Afaf Nasher, the director of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic relations. –