Brooklyn imam speaks out about arrest of his children at New Mexico compound

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A prominent imam in Brooklyn is speaking out about the arrest of three of his adult children at a compound in New Mexico.

They were accused of keeping 11 children in filthy and dangerous conditions and training them to be school shooters.

The imam, Siraj Wahhaj, leads a well-known Brooklyn mosque.

"There's obviously something happening, some mental disorder, something, I don't know what it is," he said. "This doesn't seem like them."

He says he is at a total loss when it comes to explaining his son's role in a makeshift compound where officials found the children living in squalid conditions.

He says everyone found there is a relative of his by blood or marriage.

"I feel bad as a parent that they didn't feel comfortable enough to come to me to say Dad, you know, this is the situation," said Wahhaj.

During a Friday raid, five people were arrested and charged with child abuse. All have pled not guilty. The imam says two of the arrested women are his daughters and nine of the 11 rescued kids are his biological grandchildren.

The younger Wahhaj was initially arrested for kidnapping his 3-year-old son from Georgia back in December, and it was that manhunt that eventually led authorities to New Mexico. Remains were found at the site but it's still not confirmed if they are those of the kidnapped child. The imam believes the remains are those of his grandson.

"Whatever they did wrong, it's not acceptable to us, we're just trying to understand what happened," he said.

The older Wahhaj says he has been helping authorities with the case since the kidnapping last year and that he plans on traveling to New Mexico next week.

He says family relations have been strained and he has not spoken to his son in quite some time and didn't even know how to contact him.

"Whoever is responsible, then that person should be held accountable, whoever it is," he said.

The imam is a controversial figure. He was an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, but was never charged in the case and has denied any wrongdoing.

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