NEW YORK — When word broke Sunday that 11 starving children and three women were rescued from a filthy trailer in New Mexico, a retired New York City cop recognized the name of the main suspect.
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 39, taken into custody on suspicions he kidnapped his 3-year old disabled son from Georgia, is the son of a Brooklyn imam, Siraj Wahhaj. The boy’s whereabouts are presently unknown.
The senior Wahhaj won a settlement from New York City, amid complaints certain Muslim mosques were being monitored by police illegally, including his — Masjid al-Taqwa — located at Bedford Avenue and Fulton Street in Brooklyn.
The senior Wahhaj was an unindicted co-conspirator in a plot to bomb New York City landmarks in 1993, which resulted in the conviction of blind Egyptian sheikh, Omar Abdel Rahman, who died in prison.
A source told PIX11 that before the dismantling of certain, NYPD intelligence operations, undercover cops were buying weapons at the mosque. The evidence was turned over to federal prosecutors.
In New Mexico, Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said the imam’s son was heavily armed when investigators arrived at the remote compound with a search warrant.
The younger Wahhaj allegedly had an AR-15 rifle, five loaded 30-round magazines, and four loaded pistols. A friend of Wahhaj’s from Georgia, Lucas Morten, was charged with harboring a fugitive.
Deputies had been watching the compound for some time, after receiving word from authorities in Georgia that Wahhaj may have kidnapped his 3-year-old son back in December 2017.
Imam Siraj Wahhaj, the father of the suspect in the boy’s kidnapping. The child, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, needs medicine because he suffers from seizures and developmental delays.
USA Today reported the boy can’t walk, because he suffered from hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy at birth, which occurs when a baby’s brain does not receive sufficient oxygen and blood.
Someone inside the compound had managed to get a message out to Georgia: “We are starving and need food and water.”
The trailer was found buried into the ground, covered in plastic, virtually in the middle of nowhere.
It was discovered in the town of Amalia, 145 miles northeast of Albuquerque, very close to the New Mexico-Colorado border.
There was no answer at the Masjid al-Taqwa mosque in Brooklyn Monday afternoon when PIX11 News called for comment.