Family member eyed in brazen Newark imam killing, sources say

Investigators are looking into whether a relative may be behind the killing of a Muslim leader who was shot outside his Newark mosque before morning prayers earlier this month, according to three law enforcement sources familiar with the case.

The killing of Imam Hassan Sharif as he prepared to open the Masjid Muhammad-Newark mosque on Jan. 3 has generated an intense law enforcement dragnet. Authorities have said they had no evidence that religious hate motivated the imam’s slaying, but vowed to protect people of faith amid soaring reports of bias attacks across the U.S.

One law enforcement source says there is video from the scene of Sharif’s killing that shows a man riding away on a bicycle. The sources say they are looking into whether that individual is a relative of Sharif.

The family declined comment to News 4 Friday on the matter.

Sharif’s shooting comes amid intensifying bias incidents against Muslims and Jews since Hamas committed terror attacks on Israel on Oct. 7, provoking a punishing war in the Gaza Strip.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, recorded more than 2,000 bias incidents against U.S. Muslims in the first two months since the Mideast attacks began, up from nearly 800 in the same period last year.

A $35,000 combined reward is being offered for information in the case.

For nearly two decades, Sharif also worked as a transportation security officer for the Transportation Security Administration at Newark Liberty International Airport, said TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of his passing and send our condolences to his family, friends and colleagues,” she said in an emailed statement shortly after his death.

In a video statement posted on its website, the mosque offered prayers and said the community would focus on delivering Sharif his last rights and burial. The statement described Sharif as a brother, friend, father and husband and called on the community to be mindful of the family’s grief.

Sharif’s death follows other recent killings of religious leaders or at houses of worship that officials said weren’t tied to bias.

In Detroit, authorities said there wasn’t a “shred of evidence” that the killing of a synagogue leader in her home in October was motivated by antisemitism. In Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, authorities said the death of a man outside a mosque was the result of a carjacking.

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