Father of three adults arrested at New Mexico compound speaks out
NEW YORK – Imam Siraj Wahhaj, whose three adult children were arrested last week following the discovery of 11 malnourished children at a New Mexico compound, said he has not spoken to his son since late 2017 and wants to find out what happened to his family since then.
His son, Siraj Wahhaj, was one of five adults arrested Friday in the raid outside Taos. The younger Siraj was wanted on a warrant out of Georgia for the alleged abduction of his son, Abdul-Ghani, whose mother last saw him in November.
New Mexico prosecutors claim that at least one of the children found at the compound was being trained to commit school shootings.
On Thursday, the prominent New York imam said he wished that his son had contacted him before the raid. “This doesn’t sound like them,” he said of his children, adding that he was worried about the physical and emotional health of his children and grandchildren.
“I am feeling a lot of emotions in so many ways,” he said at a news conference. “We want to find out what happened.”
The search for Abdul-Ghani and his father led authorities to the compound. Nine of the 11 children found in the raid were the children of the younger Siraj and his wife, Jany Leveille, who also was arrested. His sisters, Hujrah Wahhaj and Subhannah Wahhaj, also were arrested, along with Lucas Morten.
The five suspects each face multiple counts of child abuse. Morten is also charged with harboring a fugitive, Siraj Wahhaj, on suspicion of knowing that he was committing custodial interference with Abdul-Ghani.
Abdul-Ghani, whose fourth birthday was on Monday, was not among the 11 children found during the raid. Two days later, authorities found the remains of a young boy who has yet to be positively identified.
Nearly two weeks after Abdul-Ghani’s disappearance, his father flipped a Ford Explorer on Interstate 65 in Alabama. According a police traffic report on the December incident, a 5-year-old boy and Jany Leveille were taken to the hospital. Six other children were in the car, ranging in age from 3 to 15. The birth date listed for the 3-year-old does not match Abdul-Ghani’s birthday.
The elder Wahhaj was the first Muslim to offer an opening prayer before the US House of Representatives, the Muslim Alliance in North America said. He was also a character witness for convicted 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind Omar Abdel-Rahman.