An imam and his assistant were fatally shot in broad daylight attack as they left afternoon prayers yesterday in New York City
Imam Maulama Akonjee, 55, and Thara Uddin, 64, were shot in the head by a man who approached them from behind in Queens shortly before 2pm on Saturday, August 13, police said.
Akonjee, a father-of-seven, and Uddin were both pronounced dead later on. The imam had moved to New York from Bangladesh two years ago and was close friends with Mr Uddin. Police said there was nothing at this stage to indicate that the men were shot because they were Muslim
Deputy Inspector Henry Sautner of the New York Police Department said video surveillance showed the victims were approached from behind by a man in a dark polo shirt and shorts who shot them, then fled with the gun still in his hand.
Members of the Bangladeshi Muslim community served by the mosque said they wanted the shootings to be treated as a hate crime. More than 100 people attended a rally Saturday night, chanting: “We want justice!”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group, held a news conference near the shooting scene, where Kobir Chowdhury, a leader at another local mosque, said, “Read my lips: This is a hate crime” directed at Islam. “We are peace-loving.”
The imam’s daughter, Naima Akonjee said her father did not “have any problems with anyone.
Sarah Sayeed, a member of New York mayor Bill de Blasio’s staff, who serves as a liaison to Muslim communities, attended the rally and said:
“I understand the fear because I feel t myself. I understand the anger. But it’s very important to mount a thorough investigation.”
Neighbours described Mr Uddin as a pious and thoughtful man who prayed five times a day and went to the mosque. While at home, they said he would water his garden and one next door.
“A very honest, wise man … (and) a very helpful guy,” said Mohammed Uddin.
Photo credit: AP