Wed, Aug 15, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Boy at New Mexico compound died in militant ritual, prosecutors tell court

Reuters, TAOS, New Mexico

A three-year-old boy found buried at a New Mexico desert compound died in a ritual to “cast out demonic spirits,” but his extended family believed that he would “return as Jesus” to identify “corrupt” targets for them to attack, prosecutors said on Monday.

Authorities unearthed the boy’s remains at a ramshackle compound north of Taos, three days after an Aug. 3 raid in which investigators found 11 other children alive but malnourished, and arrested five adults on charges of abusing them.

At least some of the children, aged one to 15, were given weapons training to defend the compound against a possible FBI raid, the court was told.

A 15-year-old described to investigators how one of the suspects told him the dead three-year-old, identified as Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, would return and designate institutions, such as law enforcement, for attack, FBI Special Agent Travis Taylor said.

“They were awaiting for Abdul-Ghani to be resurrected to let them know which government institutions to get rid of,” Taos County prosecutor John Lovelace said in arguing that bail should be denied for all five defendants.

However, District Judge Sarah Backus rejected the prosecutors’ request and set bond at US$20,000 for each of the suspects.

The adults, including three women who police said were the mothers of the 11 children, were each charged with 11 counts of felony child abuse.

Lucas Morton and his wife, Subhannah Wahhaj, along with her brother Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and his spouse, Jany Leveille, and another sister, Hujrah Wahhaj, were training the children to use firearms “in furtherance of a conspiracy to commit school shootings,” prosecutors said in court documents filed last week.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 39, the son of a prominent New York-based Muslim cleric, was also charged in the alleged abduction of his son Abdul-Ghani from his mother’s Atlanta home in December last year.

A cross-country search for the missing boy and his father led investigators to the 10-acre compound on the outskirts of the community of Amalia near the Colorado border.

The remains of a young boy, believed to be Abdul-Ghani, were found three days later at the site.

Authorities encountered Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, Leveille and seven of the children in December when they were in a traffic accident, and police found weapons in the vehicle, including pistols, an AR-15 rifle and ammunition magazines, Lovelace said.

Wahhaj told police at the time that he had the guns because he worked for an executive security business and that he was going on a camping trip in New Mexico, Lovelace added.

In describing what the children said about the death of Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, Lovelace said that “it was a religious ritual carried out on Abdul-Ghani, a ritual intended to cast out demonic spirits” from him.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj had sent his brother a letter that was “an invitation to come to the compound and pursue his intent to become a martyr,” prosecutor Timothy Hasson said during Monday’s hearing.

“In the 21st century, I think we all know what that means,” Hasson added.

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