NEW YORK – 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, Tharam 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.
The mosque serves a community of Bangladeshi immigrants.
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 Qur’an readings especially compelling.