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State: It could take weeks to positively ID child’s remains

August 10, 2018

The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator said Thursday it could take weeks to identify the remains of a small child found Monday at a remote compound in the tiny community of Amalia, near the Colorado border.

“The remains are in a state of decomposition that has made identification very difficult,” said Kurt Nolte, chief medical investigator at the OMI. “… If we must rely on DNA results, identification could take several weeks.”

The news release followed an announcement by the grandfather of a missing Georgia boy who said he learned from other family members that the remains found buried at the desert compound north of Taos were those of his grandson.

Monday would have been the fourth birthday of Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, who went missing in December in Jonesboro, Ga., near Atlanta.

The boy’s grandfather, Siraj Wahhaj, who leads a New York City mosque, told reporters Thursday that other family members told him the boy’s body was buried at the Amalia compound after he died.

Taos County sheriff’s officials raided the compound last week in search of Abdul-Ghani, following what Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said was a two-month investigation with law enforcement in Georgia and the FBI. The sheriff said 11 hungry children found living in filth on the property were taken into state custody.

Three women and two men living at the site have been charged with child abuse, including Abdul-Ghani’s father, who also faces charges of abducting the Georgia boy, who is his son.

Hogrefe has repeatedly cited information from the FBI in the case, but the agency itself has been mum.

Hogrefe told The New Mexican that the FBI had surveilled the Amalia compound weeks before sheriff’s deputies raided the property, but the agency found no cause to search the site. He also said an FBI analyst told him the suspects appeared to be “extremists of the Muslim belief.” He decided to conduct the raid after officials in Georgia forwarded him a message, possibly sent by someone inside the compound to a third party, that said, “We are starving and need food and water.”

A spokesperson for the FBI office in Albuquerque did not respond to questions emailed to him Thursday seeking to confirm whether the agency believes the adults at the compound are extremists or whether it should have entered the property after agents surveilled the compound.

“The FBI is neither confirming or denying the investigation to which you are referring,” bureau spokesman Frank Fisher said in an email. “No other information is being released at this time.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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