In an average dark-brick home off Rainbow Drive outside Decatur, family members on Monday remember Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj on his 4th birthday — wherever he is.
What should have been a day of celebration was instead filled with questions and longing. A woman at the door politely said the family wasn’t ready to talk. The Clayton County child remains missing even after authorities found his father Friday in a filthy compound in the northern New Mexico desert, along with 11 kids and three adults.
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj had been wanted since December, when the child’s mother told Clayton police he took the boy and traveled west. A warrant obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said they left after the dad mentioned intentions to perform an “exorcism” on his son because Abdul-Ghani was “possessed by the Devil.”
The boy had struggled his whole life with neurological problems from hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. He can’t walk and suffers from seizures, the warrant said.
Authorities in Taos County, New Mexico said none of the adults found in encampment would say where Abdul-Ghani is.
The idea that the missing Georgia boy might be at the compound started with a plea for help apparently sent from someone inside to a Clayton County detective: “We are starving and need food and water.”
Taos County, New Mexico authorities described the group as possible “Muslim extremists,” though further information hasn’t been released on those suspicions. Abdul-Ghani’s father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, does come from a Muslim family.
His father, Siraj Wahhaj, is a well-known imam, who speaks at mosques across the country, including the Doraville and New York City locations of Masjid At-Taqwa. The imam couldn’t be reached for comment immediately Monday.
The small compound in New Mexico is composed of an old partially buried RV, a wall of tires and an earthen berm. It sits south of the Colorado border amid the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe, whose investigators think the missing boy has been at the camp in recent weeks, said the property had no clean water, almost no food, no hygienic products. The kids wore dirty rags and no shoes.
The kids found there are in custody of the state of New Mexico, and the adults are in jail.
On Sunday, the Taos County sheriff announced 11 charges of child cruelty against all five adults: Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, Lucas Allen Morton, Jany Leveille, Hujrah Wahhaj and Subhannah Wahhaj.
It wasn’t immediately clear what relationship there was between the suspects. The sheriff’s office said the women are believe to be mothers of the children found.
Abdul-Ghani’s mother wasn’t there. She’s been in Georgia trying to figure out what happened to her son after he went with his father to a park and never returned.
Since then, she and other family have plastered their Facebook pages with missing persons flyers, asking for anyone with information to call Clayton police. They also put flyers out in public.
The last known sighting of the child and father together was Dec. 13 in Chilton County, Alabama, when they were involved in a single-vehicle accident.
Police said there were five other children and two additional adults in the vehicle. Wahhaj told an officer they were headed to New Mexico for a camping trip.
Someone in a truck, which was registered to Morton, picked them up after the wreck and they drove west.
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