Fa­ther: Com­pound sus­pect not ‘rad­i­cal’

He re­flects on son’s trou­bles as ne­glect case be­ing in­ves­ti­gated

Albany Times Union - - EMPIRE STATE - By Stephen R. Groves and Mor­gan Lee

At a re­mote New Mex­ico out­post, Si­raj Ibn Wah­haj and oth­ers who came to the area with him last year were by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties’ ac­counts “ex­trem­ist of the Mus­lim be­lief” who trained youth to use firearms and carry out fu­ture school shoot­ings.

Yet for the 40-year-old’s fa­ther, a Mus­lim cleric who leads a well-known New York City mosque, the son he knew be­fore los­ing touch with him in the past year was not “rad­i­cal.” He may have been “high-strung,” but the fa­ther never be­lieved his son was ex­treme enough to kill any­one.

And the imam’s two daugh­ters — 38-year-old Hu­jrah Wah­haj and 35-year-old Sub­han­nah Wah­haj, who had lived at the com­pound too—werethe “sweet­est kinds of peo­ple,” he said. One was a pub­lic speaker, and the other a writer.

“This doesn’t seem like them. We know them,” their fa­ther Si­raj Wah­haj, who shares a name with his son, said Thurs­day in New York. “Mus­lims all over the world, those who know him, they said this is strange.”

The three sib­lings and two other adults have been charged with child abuse stem­ming from the al­leged ne­glect of the 11 chil­dren found liv­ing on a squalid com­pound on the out­skirts of tiny Amalia, New Mex­ico. All five are be­ing jailed with­out bail in New Mex­ico.

A man at the com­pound, Lu­cas Mor­ton, also is fac­ing a count of “har­bor­ing a felon” on ac­cu­sa­tions he re­fused to tell au­thor­i­ties the younger Si­raj Wah­haj’s lo­ca­tion when au­thor­i­ties raided the com­pound.

Wah­haj, whom au­thor­i­ties say was even­tu­ally found armed with mul­ti­ple firearms, in­clud­ing an as­sault rif le, is wanted on a war­rant in Ge­or­gia in the dis­ap­pear­ance of his son.

Pros­e­cu­tors said Ab­dul-ghani Wah­haj was 3 years old when he was snatched from his mother in De­cem­ber in Jones­boro, Ge­or­gia, near At­lanta.

A war­rant says the fa­ther at some point told his wife he wanted to per­form an ex­or­cism on the boy, who suf­fers seizures and re­quires con­stant at­ten­tion be­cause of a lack of oxy­gen and blood flow at birth.

The el­der Wah­haj said he did not know any­thing about his son want­ing to per­form an ex­or­cism on the boy. But he said his son and one of his daugh­ters had be­come “overly con­cerned” with the idea of peo­ple be­com­ing pos­sessed.

Mary Altaffer / As­so­ci­ated Press

Imam Si­raj Wah­haj speaks to re­porters Thurs­day in New York. Wah­haj, the grand­fa­ther of a miss­ing Ge­or­gia boy, says the re­mains of the child were found buried at a desert com­pound in New Mex­ico.

Karl Bren­nan / Dronebase via AP

Three sib­lings and two other adults are ac­cused of abuse over the al­leged ne­glect of 11 chil­dren found liv­ing at a re­mote New Mex­i­can out­post.

Wah­haj

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