New York imam and another person, reportedly his assistant, were shot and killed Saturday afternoon one block from their mosque.
The imam, identified by local media as Maulama Akonjee, was a 55-year-old married father of three.
His associate, which conflicting reports identified as his brother-in-law, was said to be 65-year-old Thara Uddin.
The shooting followed prayers at the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid, according to police. It took place at the corner of 79th Street and Liberty Avenue, a block from the Glenmore Avenue house of worship, according to The New York Times.
The mosque serves a community of Bangladeshi immigrants.
Police initially reported the shooting as a botched robbery, but have since said they were exploring the possibility it was a hate crime targeting the Muslim religious leader.
Locals were adamant that Muslims were targeted. Both victims wore Muslim religious garb at the time of the shooting, having just come from leading prayers there.
“That’s not what America is about. We blame Donald Trump for this…. Trump and his drama has created Islamophobia,” Khairul Islam, 33, told The New York Daily News.
The imam, in his 50s, was shot in the head and pronounced dead on arrival at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. The other remains in critical condition.
The imam “is a very religious, pious person, he doesn’t talk, unless he acts,” Misba Abdin, 47, a leader of a nonprofit in the neighborhood and one of the imam’s congregants, told The New York Times. “He has no friends and enemies.”
“I’m not sure what kind of an animal would kill that man,” said Rahi Majid, Akongi’s 26-year-old nephew. “He would not hurt a fly. You would watch him come down the street and watch the peace he brings.”
Police have launched a manhunt for the shooter, who is described as “tall and Hispanic, carrying a large handgun, and wearing a dark blue shirt and short pants,” according to the Daily News.