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New Mexico authorities say missing toddler died months ago during ritual to exorcise demons

Authorities arrested five adults earlier this month during a raid on the Muslim-extremist compound in New Mexico. A judge released the five adults from the Taos County jail until their next court date. (Image source: Video screenshot)

Prosecutors told a New Mexico judge on Monday that Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj died in February during a religious ritual performed by his father Siraj Wahhaj. Abdul-Ghani went missing from Jonesboro, Georgia, late last year, the BBC reported.

The ceremony was meant to cast demons from the then-3-year-old boy who had severe health problems, prosecutors said during a detention hearing for Wahhaj in a Taos County court.

Investigators discovered the child remains inside a tunnel on the property, which attorneys claimed were those of the missing boy. However, the identity of the remains has not yet been confirmed by the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator.

What's the back story?

On Monday, Judge Sarah Backus released Wahhaj, 40, and the other four adults from the Taos County jail on unsecured $20,000 bonds. It's unclear whether or not a trial date has been set for the suspects.

Authorities arrested the adults on Aug. 3 during a raid on the Muslim-extremist compound near the Colorado border. Eleven children, ages 1 to 15, were found starving and living in filth on the property. Some of the children were allegedly training to commit school shootings, according to prosecutors.

The judge said the information about the case was "troubling," but that the state didn't prove the suspects posed a danger to the public.

Wahhaj pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of child abuse and one count of custodial interference last week. Lucas Morten and the three women pleaded not guilty to child abuse and harboring a fugitive.

The suspects are required to wear ankle bracelets while they are out on bond.

What else happened in court?

Prosecutor John Lovelace told the court that Wahhaj performed "a ritual intended to cast out demonic spirits from Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj," NBC News reported.

One of the children rescued from the compound told investigators that Wahhaj would place his hand on the boy's head and read from the Quran, according to NBC News. Abdul-Ghani reportedly foamed at the mouth during the ceremony, according to prosecutors. During the final ritual, the child's heart stopped.

Defense attorneys argued that the ritual wasn't meant to harm to the toddler.

The adults allegedly told the children that once the demons had been exorcised from Abdul-Ghani, the boy would return as Jesus, according to authorities. As Jesus, he would instruct the group about “corrupt institutions they needed to get rid of," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

After the boy died, he was wrapped in a sheet and placed inside the tunnel, prosecutors said.

FBI agent Travis Taylor said Wahhaj's "Islamic wife," Jany Leveille, was supposed to be the mother of Abdul-Ghani, according to some of the children, the Journal-Constitution reported.

The adults allegedly told the children that the boy's mother, Hakima Ramzi, had performed "black magic" on Leveille and had stolen the boy from her womb.

Ramzi had not seen her son since her husband left with the child to go to the park on Dec. 1 and never returned.

What else?

Wahhaj once tested positive for explosives residue before boarding a flight to Saudi Arabia.

Wahhaj's father, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, leads a mosque in Brooklyn, New York. Bombers linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombings in New York City attended the mosque led by Wahhaj.

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