(Reuters) A Muslim cleric and an associate 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 men 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 Thara Uddin, 64, were both wearing religious garb at the time of shooting, police said. Police had initially identified Uddin as Tharam.
The men were transported to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center where they died, hospital spokesman Andrew Rubin said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group known by the acronym CAIR, said Uddin was an associate of the imam.