Remains at New Mexico compound are missing boy, says grandfather
The boy’s father is accused of kidnapping the child.
A severely disabled Georgia boy who authorities say was kidnapped by his father and marked for an exorcism was found buried at the New Mexico desert compound that has been the focus of investigators for the past week, the toddler’s grandfather said.
New Mexico authorities, however, said they had yet to identify the remains, found on Monday. Prosecutors said they were awaiting word on the cause of death before deciding on any charges.
The boy, Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, would have turned four on Monday. Authorities said he was snatched from his mother in December in Jonesboro, Georgia, near Atlanta.
The search for him led authorities to New Mexico, where 11 hungry children and a youngster’s remains were found in recent days at a filthy compound shielded by old tyres, wooden pallets and a wall studded with broken glass.
The missing boy’s grandfather, Siraj Wahhaj, a Muslim cleric who leads a well-known New York City mosque, told reporters he had learned from other family members that the remains were his grandson’s.
The imam said he did not know the cause of death.
“Whoever is responsible, then that person should be held accountable,” Mr Wahhaj said.
A Georgia arrest warrant accused the boy’s father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, the imam’s son, of kidnapping the child. Authorities said the father at some point told his wife he wanted to perform an exorcism on the boy, who cannot walk and requires constant attention because of a lack of oxygen and blood flow around the time of birth.
The child’s father was among five adults arrested on suspicion of child abuse at the compound after the children were discovered. In court papers, prosecutors also said Wahhaj had been training children there to carry out school shootings.
Speaking at his Brooklyn mosque, the elder Wahhaj said his family was trying to make arrangements to bring the child’s body to Georgia.
All 11 of the children, he said, were either his biological grandchildren or members of his family through marriage.
“I’m very concerned with the condition of my grandchildren,” he said. He said he did not understand why his son had taken the family and disappeared into the desert, but suggested a psychiatric disorder was to blame.
“My son can be maybe a little bit extreme,” he said, though he added that he never thought he was extreme enough to kill anyone. “High-strung,” he said.
The grandfather heads a mosque that has attracted radicals over the years, including a man who later helped bomb the World Trade Centre in 1993.
New Mexico’s Office of the Medical Investigator said it was still working to identify the remains.