Published: Wed, August 08, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Tip leads to discovery of 11 starving kids in New Mexico trailer

Tip leads to discovery of 11 starving kids in New Mexico trailer

Sheriff Hogrefe said two men were arrested during the search, which came amid a two-month investigation in collaboration with authorities in Clayton County, Georgia, and the FBI. Georgia detectives forwarded the message to the Taos County Sheriff's Office.

The mom of 3-year-old Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj reported the child missing to Clayton County police on December 7, 2017, telling authorities she last saw her son when he left with his father to go to the park on December 1, 2017.

The cluttered compound had loaded firearms easily within the children's reach, and the group had been there for at least two months, the sheriff said. The mother said her son left to go to the park with his father, Siraj Wahhaj, on November 30.

"We had a good idea of a target location to look for the child." he said.

The children found on the grounds were placed in protective custody, officials said.

Ibn Wahhaj faces an additional charge of abducting his son and Morten of harboring a fugitive.

Wahhaj and his son were last seen together in a single-vehicle crash on December 13 in Alabama. However, they did find 11 other children.

In a January Facebook post, Imam Siraj Wahhaj called for the safe return of his three children and 12 grandchildren. His mother told police that he suffered from seizures, could not walk and needed emergency medication that his father did not have.

A missing boy, whose mother believes he was taken to the compound for an exorcism, was not found.

Authorities knew from the layout of the secluded property, which had a short-distance shooting range, that its occupants were likely armed and would have an advantage on anyone that came across it, including law enforcement, according to Hogrefe. However, the site was not searched immediately given a lack of "probable cause".

The children ranging in age from 1 to 15 were removed from the compound and turned over to state child-welfare workers, Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe Taos, N.M.

Police are still are looking for 4-year-old AG Wahhaj, reported missing from Georgia's Clayton County, Hogrefe said. He didn't provide further comment, citing the early stage of the case.

Morton was among the five adults arrested after the Taos County sheriff raided the compound.

The Taos County Sheriff said the 3-year-old boy was not among the children which he described as being in heartbreaking condition, starving with no food or fresh water.

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.

It wasn't clear who sent the message or how it was communicated. The former was "taken down" with a loaded pistol in his pocket, the sheriff said.

This Fri., Aug. 3, 2018, photo released by Taos County Sheriff's Office shows Siraj Wahhaj. "The Alabama officer who talked to the group after the accident said they 'indicated that they were traveling to New Mexico for a camping trip'". But he eventually stopped visiting the compound.

The Sheriff's Office named the three females as Jany Leveille (35), Hujrah Wahhaj (38), and Subhannah Wahhaj (35).

Jail booking photos show them wearing traditional Muslim veils or hijabs.

Wahhaj and Morten initially did not follow police commands, and Wahhaj had a rifle and multiple handguns, but there were no injuries during the search.

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