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Detectives question man in slayings of N.Y. imam, associate

Mourners held signs protesting the killings of Imam Maulama Akonjee during the funeral services for Akonjee and his friend, Thara Uddin. Both were shot in the head as they left the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in Queens Saturday.
Mourners held signs protesting the killings of Imam Maulama Akonjee during the funeral services for Akonjee and his friend, Thara Uddin. Both were shot in the head as they left the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in Queens Saturday. Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

NEW YORK — Police detectives investigating the slayings of an imam and his associate have detained and questioned a man as part of an attempt to identify a vehicle seen leaving the scene of the shooting, authorities said Monday.

The man was taken into custody in connection with ‘‘an unrelated incident’’ but had been questioned by detectives regarding the Saturday afternoon shooting of Imam Maulama Alauddin Akonjee and Thara Uddin, said Stephen Davis, the New York Police Department’s top spokesman.

About 1,000 people gathered at an emotional New York City service Monday for the two men. The service was held in a municipal parking lot, about six blocks from the crime scene.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio said at the service that Muslims make New York better and stronger. The crowd applauded when he said that whoever committed the crime will be brought to justice. He also said the community will get extra police protection.

Akonjee, 55, and Uddin, 64, were shot shortly after leaving the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens.

Authorities say surveillance footage showed a car leaving the scene. Detectives checked a police database and found that a car with a matching description had been involved in a hit-and-run crash in Brooklyn, police said.

In that case, a witness to the accident recorded the car’s license plate. Investigators from a warrants squad tracked it to an address in Brooklyn where they waited in an unmarked police cruiser for the man to enter before blocking him in, police said.

The man intentionally bumped their vehicle with his car before he was placed in handcuffs, they said.

The case has not been classified as a hate crime, and police haven’t said what prompted the brazen daytime shooting. The gunman is a dark-haired, bearded man wearing glasses, according to a police sketch artist’s depiction.

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The shooting has shocked the largely Bangladeshi Muslim community in Queens and Brooklyn, sparking fear among some that they could be targeted because of their faith. Some residents have described harassment in recent months by people who shouted anti-Muslim epithets.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group on Monday announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the shooter.

Associated Press