PATERSON, N.J. (PIX11) — Congregants of a New Jersey mosque remained in shock Monday, a day after an imam was stabbed during morning prayer, leaving investigators searching for a possible motive.
“It’s shocking. It’s very shocking. We’re glad he’s in stable condition. Praying for him,” Abdul Hamden told PIX11 News Monday morning.
The incident happened at the Omar Mosque at 501 Getty Ave. in Paterson at around 5:30 a.m. Sunday, prosecutors said. A law enforcement source told PIX11 News the imam, 65-year-old Sayed Elnakib, was rushed into emergency surgery and was in stable condition.
A new surveillance video obtained by PIX11 News showed the suspect in a hooded jacket rush through rows of kneeling congregants before allegedly attacking Elnakib. Members of the mosque stopped the suspect before he could escape and held him down until law enforcement arrived, according to a mosque spokesperson.
“We are deeply saddened and hurt by the events that happened [Sunday] morning at 5:30 a.m. at Omar Mosque. We had an individual enter the mosque, unknown to the mosque, and during the prayer, he lunged forward with a knife and attacked the imam. He stabbed him at least two times in the back,” said Abdul Hamdan, a spokesperson for Omar Mosque.
The suspect, 32-year-old Serif Zorba, was arrested and charged with attempted murder, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and unlawful possession of a weapon. Zorba was due in court on Monday. Prosecutors said Zorba would face significant prison time if convicted of attempted murder.
The attack happened during Ramadan. It is considered one of the holiest months for Muslims, who typically observe by fasting, prayer, and reflection. Ramadan began on March 22 and will end on April 20.
Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh and law enforcement officials are expected to speak around 11 a.m. Monday about plans to protect the mosque through the remainder of Ramadan. The city is expected to increase police presence around other mosques as well, officials said.