US: Police searching for gunman who killed imam, companion

15th Aug 2016
US: Police searching for gunman who killed imam, companion

By Michael Hernandez

 

WASHINGTON (AA): Police are searching Sunday for the man who fatally shot an Imam and his companion in the head while they walked home from afternoon prayers in New York.

The suspect approached Imam Maulama Akonjee, 55, and an unidentified 64-year-old associate, from behind Saturday before opening fire and fleeing the scene, according to police.

Media reports identified the 64-year-old man as the imam’s assistant, Thara Uddin.

Police described the suspect as a man of medium complexion who was dressed in a dark polo shirt and shorts during the attack.

Spokesman Deputy Inspector Henry Sautner said police are still looking to establish a motive, but local community members have voiced concern that the perpetrator could have targeted the duo because of their faith.

The men were wearing traditional Muslim religious attire as they walked home from the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque, which serves the Ozone Park neighborhood’s Bangladeshi community.

The shootings come as Muslim advocacy groups warn of heightened Islamophobia in the U.S. amid continued Daesh attacks around the globe.

Data compiled by the New York Times showed crimes against Muslim-Americans and their houses of worship have tripled since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.

Afaf Nasher, executive director of the New York chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, said in a statement that the perpetrator of Saturday’s shootings “must be swiftly apprehended and face the full force of the law.” CAIR describes itself as the U.S.’ largest Muslim advocacy group.

Hundreds of demonstrators at a rally Saturday night near the site of the fatal shootings demanded justice for the slain imam and his compatriot.

At the rally, Sarah Sayeed who is New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s liaison to Muslim communities, said, “I understand the fear because I feel it myself,” according to The Associated Press.

“I understand the anger. But it’s very important to mount a thorough investigation,” she added.

[Photo: New York. Public Domain]

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