An imam and a man believed to be his assistant were shot and killed Saturday on a busy street in New York City, according to local police.
A lone gunman killed the two men by shooting them in the head near a mosque in the borough of Queens, according to a statement on the New York City police department website. The motive behind the shooting has not been determined and no arrests have yet been made.
The statement identified the imam as Maulama Akonjee, 55. His associate, who was not identified by police, died later at a hospital.
Akonjee had given a prayer service at 1 pm (1700 GMT) and was walking home from the mosque when he and his assistant were gunned down, local media said.
The imam was a revered religious leader who arrived in New York City from Bangladesh less than two years ago, the New York Daily News reported.
“There is nothing in the preliminary investigation that would indicate they were targeted because of their faith,” NYPD Deputy Inspector Henry Sautner told reporters, according to CNN.
The men had been wearing religious attire at the time of the shooting, a law enforcement source with direct knowledge of the investigation told CNN.
Some people in the community who attend the mosque are calling the killing a hate crime.
“We feel really insecure and unsafe in a moment like this,” Millat Uddin told broadcaster WCBS. “It’s really threatening to us, threatening to our future, threatening to our mobility in our neighbourhood, and we’re looking for the justice.”
Local resident Khairul Islam also said the community viewed the attack as a hate crime and blamed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“Trump and his drama has created Islamophobia,” Islam told the New York Daily News.
Trump first proposed banning Muslim immigrants from entering the US last December. In July he said he planned to expand the ban to territories that had been compromised by terrorism.