Community members pray outside the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque before a funeral prayer for Imam Maulana Alauddin Akonjee and Thara Miah, who were shot and killed after prayers outside the mosque on 14 August, in Queens, New York, New York, USA, 15 August 2016.

A man suspected of killing an imam and his associate in New York City has been charged with their murders, officials for the New York City Police Department said Monday.

The suspected murder weapon was also found in the man's Brooklyn apartment, US media reported.

The imam, Maulama Akonjee, and his associate, Thara Uddin, were shot and killed Saturday on a busy street near a mosque in the borough of Queens.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted about the murders, describing them as "senseless" and "heartbreaking".

New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton said police were able to trace the suspect because the vehicle he fled in was involved in a hit-and-run collision shortly after the shooting, about five kilometres from the scene.

Police later found the vehicle parked near the hit-and-run and arrested the suspect when he returned to the car Sunday night. During the arrest, the man tried escaping by ramming his vehicle into a police car before being taken into custody.

The suspect was identified as a 36-year-old Latino man. He is being investigated for the killings and the hit-and-run accident.

The motive, which police said could be hate crime, was still under investigation.

At a prayer service held Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio offered condolences and reassured the mourning community that justice would be served.

"We're not going to listen to those voices that try to divide us, and we're not going to let them continue to encourage acts of hatred," de Blasio said.

"We will stand up to them each and every time. We will make sure that whoever did this is brought to justice - I can guarantee you that."

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Imam and assistant shot dead on New York City street

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