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Police arrest suspect for execution of Queens Imam

August 15, 2016  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Police arrest suspect for execution of Queens Imam

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The gunman who fatally gunned down an imam and his friend just blocks away from a Queens mosque may have been concluding a score in a strife between Hispanic and Muslims, police sources announced early Monday.

Sources indicate that the suspect may have left behind an additional victim who unknowingly held the evidence that solved the crime.

The alleged suspect was takem into custody on Sunday night, but his identity has not yet been revealed, and it is unclear if he has officially been charged, the New York Daily News reported. However, law enforcement officials have not confirmed whether a suspect was arrested.

Security footage of the brutal murders of 55-year-old mosque leader Maulama Akonjee and 65-year-old Thara Uddin in Ozone Park suggests the audacious crime was a planned attack.

However, the gunman appears to have gotten messy as he left the scene of the crime and proceeded hit a bicyclist with his car after shooting the Imam.

The biker wrote down the vehicle’s license plate number and provided it to police, who began to hunt the man down.

NYPD Regional Fugitive Task Force members were conducting what turned out to be a “brief surveillance” of the suspect in Queens when he collided with an undercover cop car, allowing officers to nab the man.

Detectives questioned the suspect on early Monday and were waiting on a search warrant to be issued for his home.

Sources allege that the attack on the Imam occurred in response to a continuing feud between Muslims and Hispanics in the Queens community, saying that the shooting may have been payback for when a couple of Muslims reportedly attacked some Hispanics a few weeks prior.

Authorities had learned that just before 2 pm on Saturday, the killer swiftly approached Akonjee and Uddin and shot them both in the head at point blank range, without saying a word. The double slaying occurred just minutes after they finished their afternoon prayers at the Al-Furqan Jame Mosque.

A police source said in an interview: “This guy looks like he has shot a gun before. You don’t walk up behind someone, even from 5 feet, and just get two head shots. How many times you see cops fire 16 times and they hit the guy only twice?”

Initially, police looked into the possibility that the incident was a robbery-gone-wrong, as one of the victims was carrying several hundred dollars in cash in his pocket. However, that theory was quickly ruled out.

“It doesn’t look like a robbery because it doesn’t look like he said anything before he shot the guys. The guy just comes up behind and shoots,” the source stated.

Cops issued a sketch of the suspect and reported that he was tall, of Hispanic descent, with a beard, dark hair, and eyeglasses. It is unclear if the person who was arrested matches the description that was released to the public. Police have also yet to determine whether both men were targeted intentionally.

As cops investigated tirelessly through the weekend, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised that the NYPD would bring the murderer to justice.

De Blasio said in a statement: “This weekend our city was stung by violence that devastated a congregation and unsettled a community. When religious leaders are targeted, we all bear the pain those in Ozone Park feel most personally today.”

He added, “While we do not yet know the motivation for the murders of Maulama Akonjee and Thara Uddin, we do know that our Muslim communities are in the perpetual cross hairs of bigotry.”

However, a member of the mosque, Khairul Islam Kukon criticized the mayor for not visiting the site.

Kukon stated, “It’s been more than 48 hours… The mayor has not been here. If this were a Jewish community, the mayor would be there the next hour.”

Eric Phillips, a spokesman for De Blasio, said, “The mayor and our senior staff have been in constant contact with community leaders since the tragedy.”

Jewish activists attended the mosque on Sunday night in a display of solidarity. Robert Silverman, who is the director of Muslim/Jewish relations for the America Jewish Congress, went directly to the mosque after his flight landed from Indonesia.

“We’re here to show support to the Muslim community… It was a heinous crime. We have to rely on the police to decide if this was a hate crime. We really don’t know what this was motivated by,” Silverman noted.

Fearful Muslims, who advocated for more police security in the neighborhood, immediately assumed that the attacks were a hate crime. Many blamed GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim discourse for the killings.

A local resident, Arief Hussain, said: “We think it’s a hate crime. All this Donald Trump … we have been dealing with a lot of hatred lately.”

However, mosque attendee Johnny Patwary believes politics should not be part of the discussion. “I don’t believe it’s to do with Trump. We’re all human beings at the end of the day,” he stated.

The Imam’s third-oldest son, Naim, 21, said through tears: “We want justice. Why did they kill my father?”

“Our worship houses never get protected. We need more police officers here,” Mohamed Hassan said. “This guy followed them and shot them point-blank!”

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