New York man expected in court over slaying of Muslim imam, assistant

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Police question suspect in slaying of Muslim cleric

Aug 16 (Reuters) - A New York man is expected to appear in court on Tuesday after being charged with second-degree murder in the deaths of a New York Muslim imam and his assistant, who were gunned down over the weekend, police said.

The charges against Oscar Morel, 35, of Brooklyn, came on Monday just hours after hundreds of mourners gathered for the outdoor funeral of the two men. The killings in the borough of Queens 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, a spokesman for the New York Police Department 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.

Photos from the incident:

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In this Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, photo, people gather near a crime scene for a demonstration after the leader of a New York City mosque and an associate were fatally shot in a brazen daylight attack as they left afternoon prayers Saturday. Police said 55-year-old Imam Maulama Akonjee and his 64-year-old associate, Tharam Uddin, were shot in the back of the head as they left the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in the Ozone Park section of Queens shortly before 2 p.m. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Sandals mark the crime scene, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, not far from the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid Mosque in the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens, New York, where the leader of a New York City mosque has been fatally shot and an associate has been wounded in a brazen daylight attack. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Sandals lay on a street corner at the crime scene, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, not far from the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid Mosque in the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens, New York, where the leader of a New York City mosque has been fatally shot and an associate has been wounded in a brazen daylight attack. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
A member of the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque stands near a police sketch of a suspect believed to have shot the mosque's Imam, at the end of an evening prayer service at the mosque in the Ozone Park section of Queens, New York. Imam Maulama Akonjee and his associate Thara Uddin were shot in the back of the head after they left the mosque following afternoon prayers Saturday. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
At the front entrance of the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in the Ozone Park section of Queens, a police sketch of a suspect believed to have shot the mosque's Imam taped to a door by members of the mosque Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016, a day after 55-year-old Imam Maulama Akonjee and his 64-year-old associate, Thara Uddin, were shot in the back of the head after they left the mosque following afternoon prayers Saturday. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
At the front entrance of the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in the Ozone Park section of Queens, a police sketch of a suspect believed to have shot the mosque's Imam is handed out by members of the mosque Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016, a day after 55-year-old Imam Maulama Akonjee and his 64-year-old associate, Thara Uddin, were shot in the back of the head after they left the mosque following afternoon prayers Saturday. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
At the front entrance of the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in the Ozone Park section of Queens, a police sketch of a suspect believed to have shot the mosque's Imam is tapped to a door Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016, a day after 55-year-old Imam Maulama Akonjee and his 64-year-old associate, Thara Uddin, were shot in the back of the head after they left the mosque following afternoon prayers Saturday. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Mary Jobaida of New York, rests on a fence outside the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in the Ozone Park section of Queens, New York, Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016, a day after 55-year-old Imam Maulama Akonjee and his 64-year-old associate, Thara Uddin, were shot in the back of the head after they left the mosque following afternoon prayers Saturday. Jobaida, who lives in the Long Island City section of Queens, came to show support and solidarity with members of the mosque. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
People, including who family friends say is the the youngest son, at right, of Imam Maulama Akonjee, stand at the door of the family's home in the Ozone Park section of Queens Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016, a day after Akonjee and associate Thara Uddin were fatally shot in a brazen daylight attack as they left afternoon prayers Saturday. Akonjee's son did not want to be identified by name. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
A police vehicle is parked across the street from the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque, Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016, in the Ozone Park section of the Queens borough of New York. The leader of the mosque, Imam Maulama Akonjee, 55, and an associate, Tharam Uddin, 64, were fatally shot as they left afternoon prayers Saturday. (AP Photo/Mike Balsamo)
People, including who family friends say is the the youngest son of Imam Maulama Akonjee, left, stand at the door of the family's home in the Ozone Park section of Queens Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016, a day after Akonjee and associate Thara Uddin were fatally shot in a brazen daylight attack as they left afternoon prayers Saturday. Akonjee's son did not want to be identified by name. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
People gather for a demonstration Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, near a crime scene after an imam and his friend were fatally shot while walking home from a mosque. Police said 55-year-old Imam Maulama Akonjee and his 64-year-old associate, Tharam Uddin, were shot in the back of the head as they left the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in the Ozone Park section of Queens. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
People gather for a demonstration Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, near a crime scene after the leader of a New York City mosque and an associate were fatally shot in a brazen daylight attack as they left afternoon prayers. Police said 55-year-old Imam Maulama Akonjee and his 64-year-old associate, Tharam Uddin, were shot in the back of the head as they left the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in the Ozone Park section of Queens shortly. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
In this Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, photo, people gather inside the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in the Ozone Park section of Queens, not far from the crime scene where the leader of the mosque and an associate were fatally shot in a brazen daylight attack as they left afternoon prayers Saturday. Police said 55-year-old Imam Maulama Akonjee and his 64-year-old associate, Tharam Uddin, were shot in the back of the head as they left the mosque shortly before 2 p.m. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
People gather for a demonstration Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, near a crime scene after an imam and his friend were fatally shot while walking home from a mosque. Police said 55-year-old Imam Maulama Akonjee and his 64-year-old associate, Tharam Uddin, were shot in the back of the head as they left the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in the Ozone Park section of Queens. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
People gather for a demonstration Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016, near a crime scene after an imam and his friend were fatally shot while walking home from a mosque. Police said 55-year-old Imam Maulama Akonjee and his 64-year-old associate, Tharam Uddin, were shot in the back of the head as they left the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in the Ozone Park section of Queens. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Children of slain Imam Maulama Akonjee stand prayerful in front of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio as he speaks at funeral services for the Imam, Monday Aug. 15, 2016, in New York. Imam Akonjee and Thara Uddin were shot in the head as they left the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in the Ozone Park section of Queens as they left afternoon prayers Saturday. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
A man cries as community members take part in a protest to demand stop hate crime after the funeral service of Imam Maulama Akonjee, and Thara Uddin in the Queens borough of New York City, August 15, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
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Police said Morel was being held early on Tuesday morning and was expected to be arraigned later in the day.

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.

Police said there was no known connection between the man being questioned and the murder victims.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, addressing the funeral, promised the city would bolster the police presence in the neighborhood even though the motive behind the killings was still unclear.

Police had said earlier that there was no evidence the men were targeted because of their faith but nothing was being ruled out.

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