Skip to main content

Muslim preacher, associate gunned down in daylight on New York street

Men never saw their solitary killer, who approached from behind and shot them
A man gestures towards the spot where a Muslim preacher and an associate were shot in New York's Queens (Reuters)

A Muslim preacher and a second man were fatally shot on Saturday while walking home from afternoon prayers at a mosque in the New York City borough of Queens, authorities said.

The motive for the shooting was not immediately known and no evidence has been uncovered so far that the two men were targeted because of their faith, said Tiffany Phillips, a spokeswoman for the New York City Police Department. But police were not ruling out any possibility, she added.

The preacher, who police identified as Maulama Akonjee, 55, and Tharam Uddin, 64, were both shot in the head at close range early in the afternoon after leaving the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid Mosque in the Ozone Park neighborhood. Both men were wearing religious garb at the time of shooting.

The men never saw their solitary killer, who approached from behind and shot them, police told the New York Post. The shooter, a man in a dark-colored polo shirt and shorts, was caught on video, they said. Witnesses saw a man with a gun fleeing.

The men were transported to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and died "while life-saving procedures were being performed," said Andrew Rubin, a hospital spokesman.

Police have yet to identify the suspect but Phillips confirmed that witnesses had seen a lone armed assailant fleeing the scene on a blistering hot summer afternoon.

Akonjee was described as a peaceful man who was beloved within Ozone Park's large Muslim community.

"He would not hurt a fly," his nephew Rahi Majid, 26, told the New York Daily News. "You would watch him come down the street and watch the peace he brings."

Video footage posted on YouTube showed dozens of men gathered near the site of the shooting, with one of them telling the crowd that it appeared to be a hate crime, even as police said the motive was still unknown.

"We feel really insecure and unsafe in a moment like this," Millat Uddin, an Ozone Park resident told CBS New York. "It's really threatening to us, threatening to our future, threatening to our mobility in our neighborhood, and we’re looking for the justice."

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.