US & Canada

New York imam shooting suspect charged with murder

This undated photo shows Imam Maulama Akonjee, who was shot dead in New York City Image copyright Shahin Chowdhury via AP
Image caption Imam Maulama Akonjee was reportedly originally from Bangladesh

New York police have charged a man with murder in connection with the killing of an imam and an aide on Saturday.

Oscar Morel, 35, was also charged with criminal possession of a weapon.

Imam Maulama Akonjee, 55, and Thara Uddin, 64, were shot in the head as they were walking after prayers in the borough of Queens.

Some mosque-goers suggested it was a hate crime, but police said there was no evidence so far that the men had been targeted because of their faith.

Following the shooting, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said Muslims were living "in the perpetual crosshairs of bigotry".

Hundreds of mourners

Image copyright AP
Image caption Some of those at the funeral service held placards that read "We want justice"

On Monday, the New York Police Department said Mr Morel had been charged with two counts of second-degree murder.

He was arrested on Sunday following a hit-and-run traffic accident just after the shootings.

The gunmen was seen on CCTV video fleeing the scene in a car. About 10 minutes later a vehicle matching that description hit a cyclist several miles away.

Police gave no details about a possible motive for the shooting.

Also on Monday, hundreds of mourners gathered for an Islamic funeral service for the two victims.

Maulama Akonjee moved to the city from Bangladesh two years ago, US media reported.

Friends of Imam Akonjee told media he had just left the mosque after prayers when he was shot. The mosque serves the large Bangladeshi community in Ozone Park.

Last year the New York Times reported that hate crimes against US Muslims and mosques tripled in the wake of attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

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