Dad arrested at 'extremist' New Mexico compound planned 'exorcism,' tied to terror-linked imam, report says
Katherine Lam By Katherine Lam | Fox News
New Mexico compound believed to have Islamic extremist ties
One of the men arrested in the raid on a “filthy” New Mexico compound inhabited by a group believed to be "extremist of the Muslim belief" reportedly planned an “exorcism” on a 3-year-old boy and is the son of a controversial New York City imam linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 39, was among the five adults arrested when authorities on Friday searched the makeshift desert structure in Amalia, near the Colorado border. Officials said they found 11 children, ages 1 to 15, living in squalid condition there. The mothers of the 11 children — Jany Leveille, 35, Hujrah Wahhaj, 38, and Subhannah Wahhaj, 35 — and Lucas Morton were also arrested.
new mexico compound
Siraj Wahhaj, father of 4-year-old Abdul-Ghani, and Lucas Morton were arrested on Friday during the raid at the New Mexico compound. (Taos County Sheriff's Office)
The children were placed in protective custody.
Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe previously said the occupants of the compound were “most likely heavily armed and considered extremist of the Muslim belief.”
new mexico compound
From the left, Subhannah Wahhaj, Jany Leveille and Hujrah Wahhaj were arrested on Friday. They are the mothers of the 11 malnourished children. (Taos County Sheriff's Office)
Wahhaj was already being sought by police prior to Thursday’s raid in connection with the disappearance of his 4-year-old son Abdul-Ghani.
MOMS ARRESTED AFTER 11 CHILDREN FOUND IN 'FILTHY' NEW MEXICO COMPOUND WITH ARMED MUSLIM 'EXTREMISTS,' COPS SAY
In a warrant made public Monday, Wahhaj told the boy’s mother he wanted to perform an “exorcism” on his then-3-year-old son because he believed he was “possessed by the Devil.” The boy suffered from seizures and couldn’t walk, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj was reported missing last December. (Clayton County Police Department)
Abdul-Ghani’s mother reported her son missing in December after Wahhaj took the boy, who turned 4 on Monday, to the park in Clayton County, Ga., and didn’t return. Wahhaj and the boy were last seen together about two weeks after the child was reported missing. The pair were involved in a car crash on I-65 in Alabama. Another five children and two adults were also with Wahhaj and the boy in a vehicle that was registered to Morton, CBS46 reported.
This Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, aerial photo released by Taos County Sheriff's Office shows a rural compound during an unsuccessful search for a missing 3-year-old boy in Amalia, N.M. Law enforcement officers searching the compound for the missing child didn't locate him but found 11 other children in filthy conditions and hardly any food, a sheriff said Saturday. The children ranging in age from 1 to 15 were removed from the compound and turned over to state child-welfare workers, Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said.in Taos, N.M. (Taos County Sheriff's Office via AP)
Law enforcement officers searching the compound for the missing child didn't locate him but found 11 other children. (Taos County Sheriff's Office)
Wahhaj’s family background was already controversial prior to his arrest. Wahhaj is the son of a Brooklyn imam, also named Siraj Wahhaj, who was named by prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the New York Post reported. The elder Wahhaj, who heads Masjid At-Taqwa mosque, was a character witness in the trial for Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the notorious “blind sheikh” who was convicted in 1995 of plotting terror attacks in the U.S.
Hujrah and Subhannah Wahhaj, who is married to Morton, are Wahhaj Sr.’s daughters. The younger Wahhaj is married to Leveille, the New York Post reported citing public records and statements the imam made in a January Facebook post.
Imam Siraj Wahhaj Twitter
Siraj Wahhaj is a Brooklyn imam. (Twitter)
“Dear Brothers and Sisters, please make duas for the safe return of our children and grandchildren: Siraj, Hujrah, Subhanah Wahhaj, son in law Luqman (Lucas) Morton, and daughter in law Maryam (Jany) Leveille and their children (our 12 grandchildren). We believe they may be traveling together,” the elder Wahhaj wrote.
On Friday, authorities were searching for Abdul-Ghani when they entered the compound, which was walled off by stacks of old tires, wooden pallets and other debris. A desperate plea for help sent to a Georgia investigator stated people inside were “starving and needed food and water.”
This Aug. 5, 2018 photo shows debris outside the location where people camped near Amalia, N.M. Three women believed to be the mothers of 11 children found hungry and living in a filthy makeshift compound in rural northern New Mexico have been arrested, following the weekend arrests of two men, authorities said Monday, Aug. 6. (Jesse Moya/The Taos News via AP)
The children, ranging in age from 1 to 15, were turned over to state child-welfare workers. (AP)
When police arrived, Wahhaj was armed with an “AR-15 rifle, five loaded 30-round magazines, and four loaded pistols, including one in his pocket,” according to Hogrefe.
The sheriff said the children had no shoes, wore dirty rags for clothing and "looked like Third World country refugees." He described the living conditions as “the ugliest looking, filthiest” he’s ever seen.
Abdul-Ghani was not at the compound, but authorities believe the child was there in recent weeks. None of the occupants taken into custody provided any information on the child’s whereabouts.
This Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, photo released by Taos County Sheriff's Office shows a rural compound during an unsuccessful search for a missing 3-year-old boy in Amalia, N.M. Law enforcement officers searching the compound for the missing child didn't locate him but found 11 other children in filthy conditions and hardly any food, a sheriff said Saturday. The children ranging in age from 1 to 15 were removed from the compound and turned over to state child-welfare workers, Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said.in Taos, N.M. (Taos County Sheriff's Office via AP)
The makeshift compound was located near the border with Colorado. (Taos County Sheriff's Office)
Wahhaj was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday on a Georgia warrant seeking his extradition to face a charge of abducting his son. Wahhaj and the four other adults also face neglect and child abuse charges. Morton was arrested on suspicion of harboring a fugitive.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Katherine Lam is a breaking and trending news digital producer for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @bykatherinelam