Updated: Police release a sketch of suspect in double-murder investigation

Mosque leader and assistant shot dead on street in New York

Updated: Police release a sketch of suspect in double-murder investigation

Image: Craig Ruttle / AP/Press Association Images

The leader of a New York City mosque and an assistant have been shot dead by a gunman who managed to escape after the killings.

Imam Maulama Akonjee, 55, and 64-year-old Thara Uddin left the Al Furqan Jame mosque in the Ozone Park section of Queens shortly before 2pm on Saturday after afternoon prayers.

The pair were walking together along a street when the lone gunman approached them from behind and shot them in the head at close range, police said.

Both men were taken to hospital but died "while life-saving procedures were being performed", a hospital spokesman said.

Police said no motive has yet been established and no arrests have been made.

Tiffany Phillips, a spokeswoman for the New York City Police Department, said no evidence has been uncovered to suggest the two men were shot because of their faith.

Even so, police were not ruling out any possibility, she added.

Some members of the Bangladeshi community served by the mosque said they wanted the shootings to be treated as a hate crime.

Scores of people at a rally at the scene of the shooting chanted "We want justice!"

One worshipper, Millat Uddin, said he felt the community had been targeted.

"Somebody has taken the law in their own hands," said Mr Uddin, who is not related to Thara Uddin. "We feel really insecure and unsafe in a moment like this."

Mr Uddin said Mr Akonjee had led the mosque for about two years.

"The community's heart is totally broken," he said. "It's a great misery. It's a great loss to the community and it's a great loss to the society."

Afaf Nasher, executive director of the Muslim advocacy group's New York chapter, said in a statement: "The perpetrator of these senseless killings must be swiftly apprehended and face the full force of the law."

The suspect was described by police as having a medium complexion and dressed in shorts and dark polo shirt.
He was seen by witnesses fleeing the scene with a gun in his hand.

The police released the following sketch: