PATERSON, NJ — An imam at a mosque in Paterson, New Jersey was stabbed while leading prayers.
Around 5:30 a.m. last Sunday, Imam Sayed Elnakib was stabbed several times while praying at the Omar Mosque, according to reports.
The alleged attacker, Serif Zorba, was restrained by the other individuals praying in the mosque. The surveillance footage from the incident shows Zorba among those praying when he he emerges from among the congregants and targets the imam at the front of the room, where he then stabs him.
Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes said that the attacker was held by the congregants until police arrived at the scene. Reports also state that Zorba was seized by police and taken into custody on multiple charges, including “attempted murder in the first degree, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose in the third degree and unlawful possession of a weapon in the fourth degree.”
Zorba, a native of Istanbul, pleaded not guilty to the unlawful weapon possession charges. His plea was entered Monday by a public defender on Zorba’s behalf. He is set to be in court again Thursday, April 13.
The imam is expected to make a full recovery, reports state, as his injuries are not life-threatening, but serious.
Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh visited Elnakib in the hospital, according to reports.
Throughout the month of Ramadan there will be an increased amount of police at all mosques in Paterson, officials stated.
“You should not be afraid to pray,” Sayegh said in a CBS News report. “You should feel safe to pray anywhere in the city of Paterson.”
The reason for the attack has not yet been released.
The prosecutor’s office said they could not provide any further details on Zorba’s possible motive, citing the ongoing investigation.
“We expect that once the investigation is concluded that this will be an isolated incident,” Abdul Hamdan, a mosque spokesperson said. “However, we have heightened our security in the mosque, along with Paterson police and Passaic County Sheriff’s Department.”
The maximum sentence for his alleged crimes is around 26 years, according to the release.
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