Imam one of two Muslims shot dead outside New York City mosque

The imam of a New York City mosque and his associate were gunned down Saturday as they walked home from afternoon prayers.

Authorities said the men were attacked from behind shortly before 2 p.m. in the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens. 

Police identified the imam as 55-year-old Maulama Akonjee. The 64-year-old associate was identified by the New York Post as Thara Uddin. 

Witnesses described seeing a man wearing a dark blue shirt and carrying a large handgun running down the street after hearing gunfire. 

“First it was two [shots], and then he goes, ‘Boom! Boom! Boom!’” a local resident told the Post. “There was a carload of people across the street, and a girl across the street, and he just targeted these two guys.”

At a press conference, police said there was no indication the victims were targeted because of their religion. However, Mashuk Uddin, the brother of one of the victims, said the shooting was a hate crime. 

“I am worried for my children, my wife,” he said. 

Kobri Chowdhury, the head of another mosque, concurred, saying the gunman shot the victims “because of [their] looks. It could have been me.”

A local resident, Donna Jag, told the Post that the diverse neighborhood is quiet and peaceful.

“We have Hindus and Muslims here, and we have no problems. This is really, really shocking.”

The mosque serves a community of Bangladesi immigrants.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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