Sirjaj Ibn Wahhaj was arrested on Sunday for child abuse and child abduction for his role in taking his son to a compound in New Mexico, where he and one other man allegedly harbored two women and eleven total children.
The compound in New Mexico was raided on Friday, with officers finding the children living in “filthy” conditions, both malnourished and dehydrated.
Wahhaj is the son of an imam in Brooklyn, and was last seen December, 2017, before he took his son from Georgia and fled to New Mexico.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Wahhaj Has Been Wanted in the State of Georgia for the Disappearance of His Special-Needs Son, Abdul
Right before taking his son to New Mexico, Wahhaj told his then-wife, Hakima Ramzi, that he was taking his son, Abdul, to the park. According to The Telegraph, Abdul has developmental and cognitive delays, and often suffers from seizures.
The Telegraph also reports that Wahhaj told his wife he needed to perform an exorcism on the child, and that Abdul (who is unable to walk) was possessed by the devil. Abdul’s disappearance spurred a social media campaign aimed at locating him, though the toddler still has not been found, even after the raid.
2. Wahhaj Was Found at a Compound in New Mexico With His Brother-In-Law, Lucas Morton
Eight months after he disappeared with his son, police raided Wahhaj’s compound in New Mexico, finding his brother-in-law, Lucas Morton, there with him as well. Morton and Wahhaj were there with three women, Subhanah Wahhaj, 35, Hujrah Wahhaj, 38, and Jany Leveille, 35, though it’s unclear what their specific relationships to these women.
Though it’s unclear what their exact relationships were with these women, police have speculated that these women were believed to be the mothers of the children in the compound.
According to CNN, a tip to a detective in Georgia was the catalyst that triggered the eventual raid on the compound. The message was apparently sent by someone at the camp, and read, “We are starving and need food and water.”
The plea was enough for police to get a search warrant of the compound, which they claimed to have been watching for several weeks. Sheriff Hogrefe of the Taos County Sheriff Department said in a statement, “We had learned the occupants were most likely heavily armed and considered extremist of the Muslim belief. We also knew from the layout of the compound they would have an advantage if we didn’t deploy tactfully and quickly.”
3. Wahhaj Was Heavily Armed With an AR-15 Rifle, Five Magazines & Four Loaded Pistols At the Time of the Raid
When the police finally raided the compound, both Morton and Wahhaj were resistant to arrest. Both Wahhaj and Morton initially refused to take orders from the Special Forces team that had conducted the raid. What’s more, the Sheriff’s office explained via CNN that “[Wahhaj] 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.”
4. The Men Were Allegedly ‘Training’ the Children For a School Shooting
An update on court documents on August 8 revealed that one or both of the men on the compound were “training” the children for a school shooting. It’s unclear how or in what fashion that training occurred.
Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, the son of Wahhaj, still has not yet been found at the compound, though the remains of a boy were discovered in the area.
5. Wahhaj Faces 11 Counts of Child Abuse & Kidnapping Charges
Now, Wahhaj faces 11 counts of child abuse and kidnapping charges, though other charges may come up as the investigation goes on. According to CNN, Wahhaj’s first court appearance is Monday or Tuesday, though it’s unclear whether he will be held without bail.
Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe told CNN that the living conditions for the children were “deplorable,” that the children looked like “third world refugees” and that there were almost no options for sustenance. “The only food we saw were a few potatoes and a box of rice in the filthy trailer,” he said.