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Man charged over NY imam murder

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New York man was charged on Monday with second-degree murder in the deaths of a New York Muslim imam and his assistant, who were gunned down at the weekend, a police spokesman said.

The charges against Oscar Morel, 35, of Brooklyn, came just hours after hundreds of mourners gathered for the outdoor funeral of the two men. The killings in the borough of Queens had shocked the neighborhood’s Bangladeshi community.

Morel was charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Imam Maulama Akonjee, 55, and Thara Uddin, 64, the police spokesman said.

He also was charged with two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. The spokesman did not disclose any possible motive for the shooting. Morel had been questioned by police following his arrest on charges related to a hit-and-run traffic accident on Saturday, the day of the shootings.

Akonjee and Uddin were shot in the head at close range after Saturday prayers at the Al-Furqan Jame Mosque in Queens’ Ozone Park section.

Speaker after speaker at the funeral had implored authorities to investigate the murders as hate crimes and to step up efforts to protect mosques and parts of the city like Ozone Park where many Muslims live and work. “We want justice,” Badrul Kahn, founder of the Al-Furqan mosque, shouted to the crowd in the service’s opening speech.