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What We Know About the Man Charged with Executing Two Muslims in New York

A 35-year-old janitor is charged with the execution-style slaying of a Muslim imam and his assistant in New York this weekend.

Detectives walk suspect Oscar Morel out of the NYPD 107th Precinct after he was charged in the murders of Maulana Akonjee and Thara Uddin. Photo by New York Daily News Archive/Contributor via Getty Images

Minutes after prayers ended at the Al-Furqan Jame Mosque in Ozone Park, Queens, on Saturday, a man approached Imam Maulama Alauddin Akonjee and his assistant, Thara Uddin, from behind, fatally shooting the Bangladeshi clerics in the head before speeding off in a black SUV.

Despite Akonjee having more than $1,000 cash on him, nothing was stolen.

A clear motive still hasn't been ascertained, but cops arrested a suspect named Oscar Morel in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn around 10 PM Sunday. Cops tracked the janitor's SUV, which was caught on camera around the time of the murders and involved in a hit-and-run with a bicyclist just minutes later.


After finding Morel's vehicle at his apartment, cops waited for him to come out. That's when the suspect allegedly rammed a detective's car several times in a brief escape attempt before being arrested. So far, Morel is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon.

Besides the vehicle, cops are counting clothes matching the description of the suspect and a revolver found in Morel's home as evidence. (The weapon was hidden in a wall in the apartment that had apparently been opened and resealed, the New York Times reports.)

The 35-year-old suspect had no connection to the Ozone Park neighborhood where the murders took place, and police are floating the idea that he might have been hired as a hitman, according to the Daily News. Because Akonjee also had the cash on him, they are also looking into whether this might have been a botched robbery attempt.

Meanwhile, members of New York's Bangladeshi community are left to wonder if the killings were motivated by hate. "I don't feel safe anymore," Mosharraft Hossain told the Times. "All of this hatred being propagated, especially by Donald Trump, it puts us at risk. People sometimes pass me on the street and call me Bin Laden. I just try to keep my head down and keep walking." In a press conference Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to allay those fears by promising police would be out in full force around mosques and in Muslim communities.

Akonjee was a married father of three who came to the United States in 2011 seeking a better education for his children; his body is being returned to his native country. Less is known about Uddin, who died about four hours being shot through the brain.

The Post reports Morel admitted being on the scene but denied committing the shooting when confronted by cops. He's due in court today. Meanwhile, his brother Alvin insists he's a decent person—while hinting at past prejudice.

"The only time we felt, everybody in New York felt, a hatred, was during 9/11," he told the paper. "Other than that, we never felt a hatred with nobody."

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