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DeKalb relative: 11 kids found in New Mexico desert raid need help

DeKalb County relatives of the 11 children seized during a police raid of a ramshackle New Mexico desert compound intend to help get the kids out of government custody. They also plan to retrieve the remains of a 3-year-old Clayton County boy found dead in a tunnel on the property.

“We’re praying we can lay baby Abdul-Ghani (Wahhaj) to rest this upcoming week,” Jamella A. Jihad posted on Facebook early Monday. Jihad, who lives in south DeKalb County, is the wife of Imam Siraj Wahhaj, who is the grandfather of the 3-year-old and some of the other children. She said the family is working to place their grandchildren with relatives who can care for them.

Jihad said the burial will be back home in Georgia, though the arrangements aren’t yet available. 

The fate of the 11 children has been unclear since Aug. 3 when police raided the compound in Taos County, New Mexico, finding  the children living in primitive conditions. 

Prosecutors have accused the group of teaching the children to become school shooters, though attorneys for the adults portrayed the group as misunderstood because they are black, Muslim and living an unusual lifestyle. Authorities believe Abdul-Ghani, 3, who suffered from seizures and other ailments, might’ve died from a lack of medical treatment.

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The boy had been missing from Clayton County since November, when the mother told police the father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, the imam’s son, took him without permission. 

From metro Atlanta, he and four adult relatives took their 12 kids to the New Mexico desert and set up their camp. At the compound, the father allegedly performed rituals on the son to rid him of his illness.

Jihad and the imam have expressed shock at the group’s decision to cut ties and travel west, and they are still trying to figure out what motivated the group. The imam has wondered if his son has a mental disorder.

Jihad told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday that she and her husband just returned home from a trip to New Mexico to check on the situation. 

With an online fundraiser, she and the imam are asking for donations to help the grandchildren who are in the state custody of New Mexico. By Monday afternoon, the site had raised more than half the $100,000 goal.

“I want to stress to you,” Jihad said, “your donations will only assist with attorney fees for the family and the grandchildren to get them out of the system and to meet the guidelines and the needs of the children only.”

The money, she said, won’t go to the defendants, who have court-appointed lawyers and were granted a “signature bond,” which doesn’t require them to pay money up front.

“We all are hurting behind my (stepchildren’s) actions. A life was lost, lives were affected,” said Jihad, who married her husband after he had his children. “Our grandchildren will need a lot of counseling. (They) will need a lot physiological help.”

So, too, she said will her daughter-in-law, Hakima Ramzi, who was Abdul-Ghani’s mother.

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