Suspects in case of children found on compound released against sheriff's pleas

Erika Holt
August 17, 2018

A boy whose remains were found in a remote desert compound in New Mexico died during a ritual ceremony, United States prosecutors say.

At the bond hearing for Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and four others, prosecutors presented a disturbing update about his son, 3-year-old Abdul Ghani, whose body was found buried on an apocalyptic-looking compound authorities raided last week.

Authorities unearthed the boy's remains at a ramshackle compound north of Taos, three days after an August 3 raid in which investigators found 11 other children alive but malnourished and arrested five adults on charges of abusing them. The defendants are innocent until they are proved to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Eleven children were held with little food or water in a makeshift compound in Amalia, N.M., for an unknown period of time before police raided the location on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018.

The body, believed to be Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, a missing boy whose fourth birthday was last week, was found August 6 at a tunnel in the compound near the community of Amalia, close to the Colorado border.

Prosecutors believe the remains were that of Wahhaj's son, who is disabled, according KOAT, but investigators say it could take weeks to verify the child's identification.

Federal Bureau of Investigation's Travis Taylor testified that a 15-year-old youth recounted one of the adults telling him that the spirit of the dead three-year-old would return "as Jesus" to direct the group in carrying out violent attacks.

His father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj (see-DAHJ' wah-HAJ'), is one of the five adults arrested at the compound on child abuse charges. "But when black Muslims do it, there seems to be something nefarious, something evil".

But state District Judge Sarah Backus said at the end of the detention hearing in Taos, New Mexico, that she was unconvinced that prosecutors had proven the defendants were a danger to the community and set bail at US$20,000 for each of them. "If these were white people of Christian faith who owned guns, it's not a big deal".

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Authorities encountered Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, Leveille and seven of the children last December when they were in a traffic accident, and police found weapons in the vehicle, including pistols, an AR-15 rifle and ammunition magazines, Lovelace said.

Jany Leveille believed she had a message from God that they needed to move from Georgia to New Mexico, the child told the agent.

The children were clothed in rags and starving when they were found, authorities said. According to the children, during one of those rituals, Abdul-Ghani passed out and his heart stopped beating, the officer testified.

The father of a boy kidnapped in Georgia would not be released because an arrest warrant has been issued for him in that state.

Prosecutors also talked about the remains of a young boy that were found in a tunnel that had been dug under the compound.

An FBI agent told the court that after Abdul-Ghani died, the children were told he would return "as Jesus" and tell them where to carry out attacks, an FBI agent told the court. She told CNN he suffers from seizures, can't walk, and needs constant medical care.

A neighbor said that target shooting practice was a daily occurrence until police launched aerial drones over the compound.

The Muslim cleric and father of Siraj Ibn Wahhaj did not confirm that his son belonged to a terrorist group, but did say his son had some extreme behavioral tendencies, in an interview via CNN.

Defense attorneys for the two men and three women arrested on child abuse charges following a raid at a northern New Mexico compound argue that prosecutors are unjustly trying to paint their clients as armed militants. The remains have not been identified.

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