A widely respected Bangladeshi imam and his assistant were shot dead in broad daylight by a lone gunman as they walked home after Saturday prayers in the Queens borough, with the local community blaming the Islamophobia fanned by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for the attack.
Imam Maulana Akonjee and his assistant Thara Uddin were dressed in traditional Muslim attire when the killer approached them from behind and shot them at point-blank range, a New York police officer was quoted as saying by the New York Daily News.
Akonjee, 55, was shot in the head and died on the spot, while Uddin, 65, was died in hospital four hours later, the report said.
Many worshipers from the local Bangladeshi community mosque gathered at the murder scene to denounce the shooting as a hate crime.
“That’s not what America is about,” Khairul Islam, a local, was quoted as saying by the report.
“We blame Donald Trump for this . . . Trump and his drama has created Islamophobia.”
Sources told the New York Daily News that the hate crimes task force of the city police would be investigating the shooting; but that it was “too early to say” it was indeed a hate crime.
CCTV camera images showed the shooting taking place at 1.55 p.m. The duo were approached from behind and shot by the gunman who then ran away, leaving his victims lying on the ground, close to Al-Furqan Jame Mosque from where they were returning home.
Police said witnesses who saw the killer said he still had the gun in his hand when he escaped after the killing.
Witnesses described the shooter as tall and Hispanic, carrying a large handgun, and wearing a dark blue shirt and short pants.
According to the report, local residents described the imam as a pious, well-regarded member of the community who was set to leave for Bangladesh in 10 days to attend his son’s wedding. Both victims had three children each.