A Muslim imam and his associate were shot and killed in broad daylight as they walked away from a mosque in Queens on Saturday afternoon. A lone gunman approached the men from behind and shot them both in the head from close range, according to New York police and witnesses.
Meanwhile Police told to media, 55-year-old Imam Maulana 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.