Published: Wed, August 08, 2018
Global | By Enrique Rogers

5 charged after 11 children rescued from filthy, heavily armed compound

5 charged after 11 children rescued from filthy, heavily armed compound

For months, neighbours had been concerned about a squalid compound built in a remote part of the U.S. state of New Mexico, saying they had brought their concerns to authorities long before sheriff's officials first found 11 hungry children, and then the remains of a small boy on the lot.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said Tuesday that the remains were found after a search in Amalia.

The women, believed to be mothers of some of the children, have been identified as 35-year-old Jany Leveille, 38-year-old Hujrah Wahhaj, and 35-year-old Subhannah Wahhaj.

The younger Wahhaj, 40, and the four other adults found at the compound have been charged with abuse of the 11 children found in a filthy, makeshift compound.

The couple said they saw a child they believed to be Abdul-Ghani in January and February, and realized he may be the missing child in late April or early May after they searched Siraj Wahhaj's name and saw a warrant out for his arrest.

"We discovered the remains yesterday on Abdul's fourth birthday", Hogrefe said, according to the Associated Press.

Morten was charged with harboring a fugitive and Wahhaj was booked without bond on his Georgia warrant for child abduction.

He also wouldn't comment on the suggestion that Siraj Wahhaj, the missing boy's father, wanted an exorcism.

The boy's mother told authorities the boy suffers from seizures, can not walk because of severe medical issues, and requires constant attention.

But a tip forwarded to Georgia detective last week set off a series of events that led to a raid at the New Mexico compound.

Police said Sunday that investigators believed the missing boy was at the compound in recent weeks. But he says the courts and other authorities shot down his attempts to break up the encampment - described as a trailer buried in the ground in Amalia, just south of the New Mexico-Colorado line.

"I had no probable cause to go onto this property".

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They reported the sightings to state and local law enforcement, but it was months before police moved in, the couple said. Obscured by the junk was a trailer where the 11 children and five adults were living.

So while his father sits in custody accused of abusing 11 other children, the search for Abdul continues.

"We all gave the kids our water and what snacks we had-it was the saddest living conditions and poverty I have seen", he added.

Court records show that Siraj Ibn Wahhaj is scheduled to appear in Taos Magistrate Court.

"The message sent to a third party simply said in part, 'We are starving and need food and water,'" Hogrefe said.

According to CNN affiliate WGCL-TV, Abdul-Ghani's mother reported him missing on December 17, saying that she had last seen her son December 1, as he left to go to the park with his father.

The missing boy's father, who the sheriff said was heavily armed when taken into custody, was identified as Siraj Wahhaj, 39.

"But what was most surprising and heartbreaking was when the team located a total of five adults and 11 children that looked like third-world country refugees not only with no food or fresh water, but with no shoes, personal hygiene and basically dirty rags for clothing".

Hogrefe said the "breaking point" in seeking a search warrant came when Georgia authorities received a message that may have originated within the compound that children were starving inside. Three women, believed to be the children's mothers, were also found.

Abdul's mother told the authorities that Siraj Wahhaj wanted to exorcize his son because he considered that his disability was due to a demon.

Property owner Jason Badger said he and his wife had pressed authorities to remove the group from the makeshift compound on his land.

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