US imam dies after being shot near New Jersey mosque

Attack is not believed to be linked to anti-Muslim bias, officials say

New Jersey imam shot and killed outside mosque

New Jersey imam shot and killed outside mosque
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An imam who was shot outside a mosque in the US state of New Jersey has died, the state's attorney general said, adding that there was no evidence the killing was driven by anti-Muslim sentiments.

Imam Hassan Sharif was shot multiple times in his car near the Masjid-Muhammad Mosque in Newark, New Jersey at approximately 6am on Wednesday, Essex County Prosecutor Ted Stephens said.

Mr Stephens said his office is “dedicated to bringing justice for [the] imam's family”, calling the killing a “dastardly crime”.

Police found Mr Sharif lying three metres from the mosque entrance with multiple gunshot wounds in his abdomen and left arm, local media reported. He was transported to a nearby hospital, where he died in the afternoon.

Officials said the motive for the shooting was unclear, but they do not believe it was caused by anti-Muslim feelings.

However, the state's attorney general said New Jersey police are increasing outreach to Jewish and Muslim places of worship, citing the rise in tensions amid the Israel-Gaza war.

“At a time when the Muslim community is concerned by an increase in bias incidents and crimes, I want to assure the Muslim community and people of all faiths that we will do everything in our power to keep all residents safe, especially in or near our places of worship,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said in a statement.

New Jersey is home to nearly 300,000 Muslims, according to the governor's office.

“I know that in light of global events and with a rise in bias directed at many communities we’re experiencing across our state – particularly the Muslim community – there are many in New Jersey right now who are feeling a heightened sense of fear or anxiety at the news of this slaying,” Attorney General Matt Platkin said.

Mr Sharif had been a resident imam at the mosque for five years, Newark Public Safety Director, Fritz Frage, said. He had also been a Transportation Security Officer at Newark airport since 2016.

“TSA is deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Transportation Security Officer Hassan Sharif, who was killed outside of his mosque in Newark,” the agency said.

Police are offering a $25,000 reward to anyone who can give information on the shooting, local media reported.

Updated: January 05, 2024, 9:53 AM