N.Y. man pleads not guilty to killings of imam, associate

September 1, 2016 1:35 PM EDT

Suspect Oscar Morel appears for an arraignment at the Queens Criminal Court for his alleged involvement in the murder of Imam Maulama Akonjee and Thara Uddin in Queens, New York, U.S. on August 16, 2016. REUTERS/Dennis A. Clark/Pool/File Photo

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York man pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges that he shot dead a Muslim cleric and his associate last month on the street after they left a mosque in Queens, prosecutors said.

Oscar Morel, 36, is facing murder and weapons charges.

Imam Maulana Akonjee, 55, and Thara Uddin, 64, were gunned down in the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens on Aug. 13 in an attack that shook the area's predominantly Bangladeshi community.

Authorities have not yet publicly identified a possible motive for the attack.

Morel’s lawyer, Michael Schwed, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Morel, who is being held without bail, is due back in Queens state court on Oct. 18.

Akonjee, a father of seven, emigrated from Bangladesh several years ago and was described by community members as a humble and deeply religious man.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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