Father recalls compound suspected as high-strung, not radical

TAOS, N. M. – At a distance of New Mexico outpost, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and the others who came to the field with him last year, by the local authorities’ accounts ‘extremist Muslim faith” that trained young people to use of firearms and the execution of the future school shootings.

Even for the 40-year-old father, an Islamic clergyman who leads a well-known New York City mosque, the son, who he knew before the loss of contact with him in the past year was not “radical.” He may have been “high-strung,” but the father never believed that his son was extreme enough to kill anyone.

And the imam ‘ s two daughters — the 38-year-old Hujrah Wahhaj and 35-year-old Subhannah Wahhaj, who lived in the compound also were the “sweetest kind of people,” he said. One was a public speaker, and the other writer.

“This doesn’t seem like them. We know them,” their father Siraj Wahhaj, who shares a name with his son, said Thursday in New York. “Muslims all over the world, those who know him, they said,” that’s strange.”

The three brothers, sisters, and two other adults were charged with child abuse, arising out of the alleged neglect of the 11 children found living on a squalid compound on the outskirts of the small Amalia, New Mexico. All five will be jailed without bail in New Mexico.

A man on the compound, Luke Morton, also faces one count of “harboring a criminal” to allegations that he refused to tell authorities the younger Siraj Wahhaj location when the authorities raided the compound.

Wahhaj, who the authorities say was eventually found, armed with several firearms, including an assault rifle, wanted on a warrant in Georgia, in the disappearance of his son.

Prosecutors said Abdul-ghani Wahhaj was 3 years old when he was snatched from his mother in December in Jonesboro, Georgia, near Atlanta.

A warrant says the father at a certain moment told his wife that he wanted to perform an exorcism on the boy, who suffers from epileptic seizures and requires constant attention because of a lack of oxygen and blood flow at birth.

The elder Wahhaj said he did not know anything about his son to want to perform an exorcism on the boy. But he said that his son and one of his daughters had become “overly concerned” with the idea of people becoming possessed.

A search for the child led authorities to the compound. However, Abdul-ghani was not among the 11 children saved from previous week.

A second search of the area Monday — that would be Abdul-ghani’s birthday — discovered the remains of a small boy who a state medical examiner is working to identify.

The imam said he learned of the other members of the family of the boy whose body was found on the property is his grandson, but the authorities have not confirmed that.

In an interview with WSB-TV in Atlanta, the mother of the boy also called for “justice” as she describes how her life had taken her after her son was kidnapped by his father. She said that was the sign for him.

She and Siraj Ibn Wahhaj had been married for almost 14 years, and she said that he disappeared after saying he took the boy to a park.

“I was not able to have my son,” she told the tv station.

The elder Siraj Wahhaj echoed her call for justice for his grandson.

“Whoever is responsible, then that person should be held accountable,” Wahhaj said.

The imam said the 11 children removed from the site, his biological grandchildren, or a part of his family by marriage. He added that Morton his son-in-law, and the 35-year-old Janie Leiveille is his daughter-in-law.

The imam describe his family as large and strong, adding that the character for his children to have broken off direct contact with them, because the family ties are important in the Islamic faith.

Speaking at his Brooklyn mosque, the elder Wahhaj said that he didn’t understand why his son had taken of the family and disappeared in the desert, but a psychiatric disorder was to blame.

“I don’t know what his thinking was,” the grandfather said. “Because to do something as extreme as this, it doesn’t make sense.”

The imam of the mosque has attracted a number of radicals over the years, including a man who later helped bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.

The mosque was founded in an area that, at the time, was plagued by drug-related violence, and has received attention in the press in the 1980s for organising the night of the anti-drug patrols to improve public safety.

The imam said he taught his son, who had worked as a security guard in New York City in the past, was licensed to carry firearms, and that his weapons were registered.

The prosecutors have filed no charges in response to the allegations, which they described in court documents this week that the children on the compound were trained with firearms to commit school shootings. That claim is coming from a foster parent of one of the 11 children removed from the compound who reported the allegation to authorities.

The elder Wahhaj said that he had no knowledge of such training.

“It sounds crazy. But I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t make decisions, but because we do not know.”

Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said that the FBI’s New Mexico prepared under supervision in the last few months that the recorded images of the composition and the interviews.

He said that the images were shared with the mother of Abdul-ghani, but she did not spot her son, and the pictures never indicated the father was in the compound, leaving the sheriff without the information he needed to obtain a search warrant.

That changed when Georgia authorities received word that children inside the compound die of hunger, Hogrefe said.

The elder Wahhaj said the tip came to enforcement of the law by him. He said that he was able to learn from their residence, from a note that his daughter, one of the five adults on the site, sent it to a guy in Atlanta saying that they are dying of hunger and the demand for food.

That guy logged Wahhaj, who said that he decided to send food and contact with the police.


Forests reported from New York. Associated Press writers Brinley Hineman in Atlanta, and Mary Hudetz in Albuquerque, N. M., contributed to this report.

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