Remains of young boy found on New Mexico compound where 11 emaciated children were recovered

The living children were found with very little water or food, police say

Clark Mindock
New York
Tuesday 07 August 2018 18:08 BST
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11 children rescued from squalid desert compound in New Mexico

Sheriff's investigators say they have recovered the remains of a young boy at a compound in New Mexico where 11 emaciated children were found last week.

It is not immediately clear if the human remains are those of a missing 6-year-old Georgia boy, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, who officials were searching for.

Finding the remains is the latest in the horrific story that led to 11 children being found in a dirty compound, and five adults in police detention for those conditions.

One of those in jail is Siraj Wahhaj, whose wife, Hakima Ramzi, told CNN that she and her husband wanted to rid their 3-year-old of medical problems, but that she did not expect for her husband to disappear with the child for nine months and travel across the country.

Mr Wahhaj's other son is Abdul-Ghani, and still hasn't been located.

An arrest warrant for Mr Wahhaj says that he "wanted to perform an exorcism" on the child because he felt the child was possessed by the devil. But, the mother says that she her husband had no such intentions, and instead had stated that he wanted to perform a ruqya, which is an Islamic tradition that is meant to rid the body of illness and involves prayer.

"It's not an exorcism. That was a translation in the court," Ms Ramzi said. He "just wanted to pray for Abdul-Ghani to get better".

Mr Wahhaj was arrested last week after officials found the five adults — a group that included Mr Wahhaj's sisters, Hujrah Wahhaj and Subhannah Wajjah, as well as two other adults — allegedly keeping the children in an underground trailer with nearly no food or water.

Authorities say that none of the five suspects have indicated where Abdul-Ghani is, however.

Mr Wahhaj and his two sisters have been confirmed to be the children of a prominent but controversial New York imam: Siraj Wahhaj, who is known for having been the first Muslim to offer an opening prayer in front of the American House of Representatives. He also served as a character witness for the man convicted of masterminding the 1993 World Trade Centre bombings.

That imam had called for the return of his three children and 12 grandchildren in January in a post on Facebook. He has since confirmed his relation to those three suspects.

Officials say they discovered the children at the compound last week, and found virtually no food alongside the kids who one official said looked like "Third-World country refugees".

The sheriff's office said that Mr Wahhaj and other men at the compound initially resisted following verbal orders, and that one was 'heavily armed with an AR15 rifle, five loaded 30-round magazines, and four loaded pistols, including one in his pocket when he was taken down".

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