Siraj Ibn Wahhaj once tested positive for explosives residue before boarding a flight to Saudi Arabia, WPIX-TV reported. The Muslim extremist was among the five adults arrested at a New Mexico compound where 11 children were found living in squalid conditions.
“During one of our investigations into the activities of Siraj Wahhaj and his son, in 2004, Siraj Wahhaj Junior was flying to Saudi Arabia from NYC, when he was tested for foreign substances by TSA agents and he tested positive for Pentex, an explosive substance. However, TSA chose not to detain him," retired NYPD detective Michael Zotto told WPIX.
Wahhaj, 40, has been accused of training children to commit school shootings at the "Third World country" compound in Amalia, a remote area in Taos County near the Colorado border.
“This is not a surprise to anyone,” Zotto said.
Wahhaj is the son of Imam Siraj Wahhaj who leads the Masjid al Taqwa mosque on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, New York. Bombers linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombings in New York City attended the mosque led by Wahhaj.
What else did the detective say?
Zotto, who worked in the NYPD Terrorism Interdiction Unit and performed surveillance at Wahhaj's mosque after 9/11, said the younger Wahhaj had been exposed to extremism since he was young.
“Wahhaj himself, senior, was always espousing hatred for America,” Zotto said. “He wanted to start a caliphate government here, a Muslim government here.”
The father has denied that his son had radical tendencies.
“I think my son can be extreme sometimes, but not radical, like killing people, God forbid,” imam Wahhaj said during a recent news conference. “He’s just a little high strung.”
What's the back story?
On Aug. 3, authorities raided a New Mexico compound where they arrested five adults, including, Wahhaj, the father of the now 4-year-old boy, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, who went missing from Jonesboro, Georgia, in December.
Eleven children, ages 1 to 15, were found starving and living in squalid conditions on the remote property in Taos County, New Mexico. The missing boy was not among the 11 children rescued and placed in foster care.
One week ago, on what would have been Abdul-Ghani's fourth birthday, authorities discovered child remains on the property. The elder Wahhaj told several news outlets that the remains belong to his grandson, but the medical examiner has not confirmed the identity.
Wahhaj pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of child abuse and one count of custodial interference last week. He was expected in court Monday.
The other adults, one man and three women, remain jailed and are charged with child abuse and harboring a fugitive.
You can read more about the case here: