Imam dies after shooting outside New Jersey mosque

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The shooting occurred shortly after 6 a.m. outside Masjid Muhammad in Newark.

An imam died after being shot outside a mosque in Newark, New Jersey, on Wednesday morning.

The imam, Hassan Sharif, was taken to University Hospital in critical condition, according to Newark Public Safety Director Fritz Fragé. The imam later died, according to an official briefed on the investigation.

The shooting occurred shortly after 6 a.m. outside Masjid Muhammad, Fragé said.

When police responded to the scene, they found Sharif lying in the parking lot with multiple gunshot wounds, 10 feet from the mosque entrance, according to a police source briefed on the case. Sharif had gunshot wounds to his abdomen and left arm.

Investigators are now feverishly reviewing security and city cameras to determine if they can detect an attacker, the source said. As is often the case, some of the cameras were not operational, but detectives believe they may have found at least one angle showing someone entering the parking lot and then running away, the police source said. Bullet casings have also been recovered and are being analyzed.

The mosque’s history dates back to the early days of the Nation of Islam’s presence in New Jersey. It used to be known as Mosque No. 25. The imam is a well-known figure in Newark, frequently appearing with city leaders and having delivered prayers at council meetings.

Investigators do not have a motive at this time, according to an official briefed on the investigation.

As the investigation into the shooting continues, the Essex County prosecutor said there is “no information at this time to suggest the crime was motivated by bias.”

Sharif had also served as a transportation security officer at Newark Liberty International Airport since 2006.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of his passing and send our condolences to his family, friends and co-workers,” the airport said in a statement.

The investigation is being handled cooperatively by Newark police and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.

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