The chief suspect in the case of the New Mexico compound, where 11 children were kept in slum-like conditions, sought to build an army of child recruits to carry out jihad, according to an FBI interview with one of the victims.
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 37, who was arrested by the FBI and charged with child abuse resulting in the death of his three-year-old son Abdul Ghani, dreamt of turning the children into an army by training them for a religious war against non-believers.
That’s according to an FBI interview with a 13-year-old boy who was among the 11 children Wahhaj and his associates kept in wretched conditions for months at a desert compound in Amalia, New Mexico. The interview is included in the agency’s affidavit in support of the criminal complaint filed against five adults with hardline Islamist views, and cited by Reuters.
The boy claims that Wahhaj, the son of a prominent Brooklyn imam, was training him and the other children to handle firearms. The training also included specific techniques, like rapid reload and hand-to-hand combat. He then encouraged children to commit jihad, defining it as killing on behalf of Allah.
The 13-year old also revealed some details about his mother’s bizarre behavior, telling FBI agents that she believes she receives orders from God. The ‘exorcism’ ritual that she and Wahhaj performed on three-year-old Abdul Ghani, which killed him, was approved by the Lord, she claimed.
The toddler’s severely decomposed body was found by police in a tunnel near the compound. The 13-year old said the adults told him to never mention that the deceased boy had ever been on the compound, since it would mean prison sentences for all of them.
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, his two siblings, Hujrah Wahhaj and Subhanah Wahhaj, his girlfriend Janny Leveille, and one Lucas Morton, were all arrested by the FBI on Friday, days after child abuse charges against all of them were dropped by the judge. The charges against Wahhaj and Leveille relating to Abdul Ghani’s death remain, however.
The FBI charged Leveille, a Haitian national who has overstayed her US visa by 20 years, with unlawful firearms possession and being an illegal alien in the US, while the other four defendants were named as her co-conspirators and abettors.
Wahhaj was previously described by local law enforcement as “an extremist of the Muslim belief.” Writings seized from the compound and accounts of the children that had lived through the ordeal suggest that members of the extended family were fascinated by the prospect of blowing themselves up in the name of God.
One of the notes found at the compound is titled “Phases of a Terrorist Attack” and offers guidelines to “the one-time terrorist” and suggests an “ideal” place to commit a terrorist attack. Prosecutors’ earlier interviews with the children revealed that both Leveille and Subhannah Wahhaj talked about dying in jihad, while Morton said he dreamed of being killed in a “holy war.”
The prosecution previously argued that the firearms training could have served a more specific purpose – to repel a potential FBI raid and possibly commit a school shooting.Despite mounting evidence, no terrorism charges have been brought against the suspects who remain in custody and are due in court on Tuesday. The defense, meanwhile, argues that the defendants have been discriminated against because of their race and religious beliefs, arguing for their right to bear firearms as well as practice whatever religion they want.
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