(Reuters) – A Muslim cleric and a second man were fatally shot by a lone gunman on Saturday while walking together following afternoon prayers at a mosque in the New York City borough of Queens, authorities said.
The gunman approached the pair from behind and shot both in the head at close range at about 1:50 p.m. EDT on a blistering hot afternoon in the Ozone Park neighborhood, police said in a statement, adding that no arrests had been made.
The motive for the shooting was not immediately known and no evidence has been uncovered that the two men were targeted because of their faith, said Tiffany Phillips, a spokeswoman for the New York City Police Department. Even so, police were not ruling out any possibility, she added.
The victims, identified as Imam Maulama Akonjee, 55, and Tharam Uddin, 64, were both wearing religious garb at the time of shooting, police said.
The NYPD declined to describe the connection between the victims but the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Uddin was an “associate” of the imam.
“The perpetrator of these senseless killings must be swiftly apprehended and face the full force of the law,” Afaf Nasher, executive director of the Muslim advocacy group’s New York chapter, said in a statement.