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Authorities combing a compound in rural New Mexico found the remains of a young child on Monday, just days after 11 starving children were rescued from the same location, police said.
It remains unclear whether the remains found are those of Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, a toddler from Georgia who’s currently missing.
According to CNN, Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe told CNN that investigators looking for the boy went back to the Amalia compound because they believed they knew roughly where to search.
“We discovered the remains yesterday on Abdul’s fourth birthday,” Hogrefe said, according to the Associated Press.
Siraj Wahhaj, the boy’s father, was arrested after the children, ranging in age from 1 to 15, were discovered by authorities. Meanwhile, Hakima Ramzi, Wahhaj’s wife, said she was aware that her husband wanted to do something about their son’s medical issues, CNN reports. The child reportedly suffered from hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, experiencing seizures and requiring round-the-clock medical attention.
Instead, Wahhaj disappeared with the boy for nearly a year.
“I haven’t seen my son in nine months,” Ramzi said Tuesday, according to CNN. “My husband said he was taking Abdul-Ghani to the park, and didn’t come back. That was in November 2017. When I would ask him where he was, he said he was just on his way, he was coming soon, he was just keeping him for the night. But I haven’t seen him since then.”
Siraj Wahhaj has been wanted since December after Ramzi told police in Clayton, Georgia, that he took their son and went west. According to an arrest warrant obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the boy and his dad left home after the father revealed his plan to perform an “exorcism” on the toddler since he was “possessed by the devil.”
Ramzi, however, told CNN that this was not the case, saying “that was a translation error in the court.” Rather, Wahhaj “just wanted to pray for Abdul-Ghani to get better.”
Along with Wahhaj, his sisters Hujrah and Subhannah were also arrested in New Mexico, according to CNN. Two more people, Lucas Morten and Jenny Leveille, are also alleged to have kept the 11 children in squalor with almost no food or water.
The kids are still in state custody. "Today we will be filing the petition with the court to maintain custody of those children," Monique Jacobson, cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, said, as quoted by CNN. "The next steps will be continuing our investigation in conjunction with law enforcement while again making sure that the children's most basic needs are being met."
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