Published: Mon, August 06, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Eleven children rescued in raid on New Mexico compound

Eleven children rescued in raid on New Mexico compound

The sheriff's office announced the charges Sunday following a months-long investigation into Ibn Wahhaj, who investigators say had kidnapped his 3-year-old son, from almost 1,500 miles away, in Jonesboro, Ga.

Hogrefe said that Federal Bureau of Investigation agents had surveilled the compound a few weeks previous but did not at the time find probable cause to conduct a search.

Police said the 11 children, ranging in age from one to 15, were malnourished and found living in squalid conditions in New Mexico. The warrant was the culmination of a two-month investigation in conjunction with law enforcement from Georgia and the FBI. Another man who was living at the compound, Lucas Morton of Atlanta, is charged with harboring a fugitive and is also behind bars. "We are starving and need food and water", the message said, Hogrefe was quoted as saying in the sheriff's department news release.

The boy's mother told police her child, who she said suffered from seizures along with developmental and cognitive delays, went to the park with his father Wahhaj last December and never returned.

Police had been looking for a toddler missing from the USA state of Georgia when they received a message through an investigator which warned that those in the compound were "starving and need food and water".

The rescue followed a police operation which began late previous year to find an abducted three-year-old child - who was not among the children found at the property.

Hogrefe said Wahhaj was armed with an AR15-style rifle and four loaded pistols when he was taken into custody.

This handout photo released by the Taos County Sheriff's Office on Aug 4, 2018 shows a view of a trailer at a makeshift compound. Three women believed to be mothers of the 11 children were also detained for questioning. Investigators say that's where they found Siraj Wahhaj living in a filthy trailer, living what police described as some of the worst conditions they've ever seen.

The compound was a travel trailer buried in the ground and covered with plastic. Investigators believe the child was on the compound within the last few weeks.

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No fresh water was found at the site, and the only food there was a few potatoes and a box of rice, police said.

A father who took his now-missing child out of Clayton County past year was found in New Mexico, although the child is still missing.

The men at the compound are in custody.

The property they had leased in the sparsely populated Costilla Meadows subdivision a couple miles from the Colorado border bears resemblance to a partially built "earthship", an ecologically-designed structure made popular in Northern New Mexico.

But reports from law enforcement hint at something amiss at the compound.

Hogrefe said the scene called to mind images of refugees from developing countries.

The search for the boy, AG Wahhaj, is ongoing, the sheriff said.

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.

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