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Police: Man Threatened Imam With Pipe In Hate Crime At Staten Island Mosque

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A Staten Island mosque has found itself targeted with chilling threats – all coming from a man armed with a metal pipe.

As CBS2's Steve Langford reported, just as worshippers were leaving a Ramadan prayer service here at the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center in Tompkinsville late Thursday night, the imam noticed a man who looked angry rushing toward him.

"And he started right with the curses – 'You 'F' Muslims. I heard you're here to conquer us,'" said Imam Tahir Kukiqi.

Families with children watched on as the suspect continued his rant at one of the biggest mosques on the East Coast.

"He started making gestures – 'I'm going to cut you. I'm going to cut you badly,'" Kukiqi said.

Kukiqi said he invited the man in to try to cool things off, until he said the man went and grabbed a piece of pipe and waved it at him. Kukiqi said the man threatened to kill him.

"Not only me -- he said all Muslims," he said.

Police say they have arrested Angel Mercado, 38, whose address is listed as an apparently abandoned home one block from the mosque.

A neighbor reported police swarmed the house about midnight Thursday night, right after the threat against the mosque.

The imam, who immigrated to the U.S. from Kosovo 14 years ago, said he wants everyone -- especially the suspect -- to know where he stands on his adopted American homeland.

"We consider this is God's, you know, heaven on earth," Kukiqi said.

Charges against the suspect include criminal possession of a weapon, aggravated harassment and menacing in the second degree -- a hate crime.

Police said the suspect has a long criminal history.

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