Tuesday, 16 October, 2018

11 children, 3 women found in 'filthy' compound, 2 men arrested

Siraj Wahhaj was jailed on a Georgia warrant alleging child abduction AP Siraj Wahhaj was jailed on a Georgia warrant alleging child abduction
Andrew Cummings | 08 August, 2018, 15:34

"Many more rounds of ammo were found in the makeshift compound that consists of a small travel trailer buried in the ground covered by plastic with no water, plumbing, or electricity", the sheriff's office said.

Still missing is a 3-year-old boy who suffers from seizures, can not walk and needs emergency medication.

Siraj Wahhaj, 39, of the state's Clayton County was accused of kidnapping his toddler, who was ultimately not found.

He says 35-year-old Jany Leveille, 38-year-old Hujrah Wahhaj and 35-year-old Subhannah Wahha were arrested without incident in the town of Taos and booked into jail.

Amid the many questions swirling for authorities about the children, the adults and the situation, one looms over all the others: Why? The Sheriff's Office said Abdul Ghani was due turn 4 on August 6.

Police say one of the men, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, has been charged with abducting his 3-year-old son, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, from Jonesboro, Ga., last year. His birthday is Monday.

Now the big concern is finding Abdul-Ghani, who needs daily medication, his mother said.

Taos County deputies were horrified by what they saw when they reached the compound.

The 11 surviving youngsters found there, described by Hogrefe as looking like "Third World country refugees", were taken into protective custody by state child welfare authorities.

According to court papers, Mr Wahhaj told the boy's mother he planned to perform an exorcism on the child.

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FBI investigators had reason to believe that Wahhaj was occupying the compound with Morten and others, but they didn't feel there was enough probable cause to obtain a search warrant.

"Last Thursday, when a message we reasonably believe came from a occupant of the compound or somebody with great knowledge of the compound sent a message saying said basically, we are starving and the children are staving, or something along those lines".

"I absolutely knew that we couldn't wait on another agency to step up and we had to go check this out as soon as possible, so I began working on a search warrant", Hogrefe said in a press release.

The boy's father was among five people arrested after the raid near the border with Colorado. "That was a translation issue in the court", Ramzi said.

On Friday, eight members of the Sheriff's office raided the compound and discovered the children, who were dressed in dirty rags.

The second man has been alternatively identified by the sheriff as Lucas Morten and Lucan Morton.

None of the adults said anything about the boy's whereabouts, the sheriff's office said.

Property owner Jason Badger said he and his wife had pressed authorities to remove the group that he said had built the compound on his acreage instead of a neighboring tract owned by Lucas Morton, one of the men arrested during the raid. The officer who helped them had been under the impression that they were headed to New Mexico to go camping. Georgia detectives forwarded the message to the Taos County Sheriff's Office.

A message from someone inside a makeshift compound in rural northern New Mexico led to the discovery of 11 children living in filthy conditions. Outside, children's pans hung across a broken sheet of hardboard, backdropped by dust, tires and the mountains. Wahhaj and Morten, both from Georgia, were arrested and charged with child abduction and harboring a fugitive, respectively.

A defense attorney said criminal complaints accusing five adults of child abuse are sparse in detail, leading to uncertainty about how much investigative work has been done.

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