A New York man has been charged with the murder of an imam and his assistant at the weekend. The killings in the borough of Queens shocked the neighborhood's Bangladeshi community, many of whom now demand action.
The 35-year old Oscar Morel of the neighboring borough of Brooklyn was charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Imam Maulana Alauddin Akonjee, 55, and Thara Uddin, 64, a police spokesman said. He has also been charged with two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.
Akonjee and Uddin were shot in the head during the day at close range after Saturday prayers at the Al-Furqan Jame Mosque in Queens' Ozone Park area, a quiet neighborhood in the north-east of the city.
The spokesman did not disclose any possible motive for the shooting, although he said there was still no known connection between the man being questioned and the murder victims.
"We believe because of the evidence we have acquired thus far that ... this is the individual," New York City Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said.
Morel hit a cyclist with his SUV 10 minutes after the shooting and was taken into custody late on Sunday night, Boyce said, having been arrested outside a Brooklyn apartment when he rammed his car into an unmarked police cruiser trying to block him in.
Earlier Monday, about 1,000 people gathered under tents to praise Akonjee, 55, and Uddin, 64, in an Islamic funeral service where emotions ran high.
"We want justice," Badrul Kahn, founder of the Al-Furqan mosque, shouted to the crowd in the service's opening speech.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, addressing the funeral, said the city would bolster police presence in the neighborhood. De Blasio, a Democrat, told those gathered that the entire city was "mourning with you."
Some in the largely Bangladeshi Muslim community in Queens and Brooklyn have described harassment in recent months by people who shouted anti-Muslim epithets.
jbh/se (Reuters, AP)