Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj was the toddler who vanished from Clayton County, Georgia, last November. Wahhaj’s whereabouts were updated when an anonymous note tipped authorities off to a New Mexico compound which held 11 starving children and was run by two men, one of whom was Wahhaj’s father.
However, Wahhaj himself was not found at the compound. The remains of a boy were found on the compound on Tuesday. The remains were found on the day he would have turned four years old, according to CNN.
On Monday, August 13, a New Mexico prosecutor said via CNN that Wahhaj died during a religious ritual “intended to cast demonic spirits from his body.” He further alleged that Wahhaj’s body was washed “several times”, then wrapped in sheets and buried on the compound.
40-year-old Siraj Wahhaj took his son from Georgia and disappeared just under a year ago. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Abdul-Ghani Was Last Seen at His Home in Jonesboro, Georgia
Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj was last seen when his father told his mother, Hakima Ramzi, that he was taking the boy to the park. They left and were never seen again. Hamzi immediately alerted the authorities, but there were no leads until a tip about the compound was dropped to a Georgia investigator.
Ramzi told CNN, “When I would ask (Wahhaj) where he was, he said he was on his way, he was coming soon, he was just keeping him for the night,” she told CNN. “I haven’t seen him since then. … I don’t think his father would intentionally hurt him.”
2. Wahhaj Wanted to Perform an ‘Exorcism’ on Abdul-Ghani, & Prosecutors Say He Did Perform a Religious Ritual
Before fleeing with his son, Wahhaj reportedly told Ramzi that he wanted to perform an exorcism on his son, believing that Abdul-Ghani was possessed by the devil.
Authorities now believe that Wahhaj did perform some sort of religious ritual on his son, though it’s unclear if it was an exorcism, specifically. CNN reports that the ritual was performed because Wahhaj and his wife believed that his son was “Jesus,” and that when the demonds were expelled, “he would instruct the adults on the compound which ‘corrupt’ institutions to get rid of, such as the military, law enforcement and financial institutions.”
Ramzi has insisted that Wahhaj didn’t want to perform an exorcism, but a “ruqya,” which is the Islamic form of exorcism. Ramzi said to CNN, “It’s not an exorcism. That was a translation issue in the court. He just wanted to pray for Abdul-Ghani to get better.”
3. Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj Had Several Developmental Disabilities & Couldn’t Walk
The Georgia warrant for Wahhaj’s arrest reveals that Abdul-Ghani couldn’t walk well on his own, and that he suffered from hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy as well as frequent seizures.
According to CNN, “Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is a serious but relatively rare complication affecting infants…that prevents adequate blood flow to the brain and can result in mental retardation, epilepsy or cerebral palsy by age 2.”
It’s because of Abdul-Ghani’s disability that police were able to estimate that he was recently at the compound, CNN reports. Aerial footage of the compound prior to the special forces raid revealed a child walking around with a limp.
4. Wahhaj Was Withholding Medication From His Son
According to CNN, Siraj Wahhaj returned home from a trip to Saudi Arabia in October 2017, and had decided to stop giving the boy medication and that what he really needed was to experience rituals that cast the demons out of him.
Abdul-Ghani was reported to be between 36 and 40 inches tall, weighing 20 to 25 pounds. He was probably wearing leg braces and needed assistance walking, CNN reports.
5. Wahhaj’s Heart Reportedly ‘Stopped’ During One of the Religious Rituals
According to a testimonial reportedly given by one of the other children on the compound, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj passed out during one of the religious rituals, and his heart stopped. It’s unclear how long he was left above ground in the compound, but CNN reports that they moved his body to a “tunnel beneath the compound” after his body began to deteriorate.
One of the adults would reportedly wash the deceased boy’s body every other day.