A lone gunman executed a revered Queens imam and his friend as the pair walked home from Saturday prayers, blasting each in the back of the head without a word, officials said.
Mosque leader Maulama Akonjee and friend Thara Uddin were dressed in Muslim garb when the killer “approached from behind and shot” from point-blank range, said NYPD Deputy Inspector Henry Sautner of the Queens South Detective Bureau.
Akonjee, 55, a married father of three, was a respected religious leader since his arrival in Queens from Bangladesh less than two years ago. Uddin, 65, died about four hours after the attack.
“We are all crying,” said his brother Mashuk Uddin. “There’s so much crying.”
Scores of worshipers from the mosque gathered within hours at the murder scene to denounce the cold-blooded ambush as a hate crime.
“That’s not what America is about,” said local resident Khairul Islam, 33. “We blame Donald Trump for this . . . Trump and his drama has created Islamophobia.”
A high-ranking police source said the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force would investigate, but it was “too early to say” what the motive was.
A second source said investigators were looking into the possibility of a botched robbery because one of the men was found carrying several hundred dollars.
The shooter left his victims lying in their own blood just one block from the Al-Furqan Jame Mosque in Ozone Park, where the two victims prayed together only minutes earlier.
Police sources said they have witnesses who saw the killer holding a gun, as well as security video of the shooter following the imam and his friend. The footage then captures the man sprinting back, this time with a gun in his hand.
The imam’s nephew said Akonjee had no problems with anyone in the neighborhood.
“I’m not sure what kind of an animal would kill that man,” said Rahi Majid, 26. “He would not hurt a fly. You would watch him come down the street and watch the peace he brings.”