Eleven children rescued from New Mexico compound after 'we're starving' note

Eleven children rescued from New Mexico compound after 'we're starving' note

Eleven children rescued from New Mexico compound after 'we're starving' note

The children, aged 1 to 5 had no shoes and "rags for clothes", the local sheriff said, adding that they had now been taken into protective custody for their own safety.

After executing a search warrant Friday, officers found 11 children ranging from ages 1 to 15, along with three gaunt women believed to be their mothers.

Other than a few potatoes and a box of rice, there was little food in the compound, which Hogrefe said consisted of a small travel trailer buried in the ground and covered by plastic with no water, plumbing and electricity.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj was detained on an outstanding warrant in Georgia alleging child abduction.

The investigation kicked off late last year on the opposite side of the country in Jonesboro, Georgia, where 39-year-old Siraj Wahhaj of the state's Clayton County was accused of kidnapping his toddler - who was ultimately not found.

"We all gave the kids our water and what snacks we had - it was the saddest living conditions and poverty I have seen", said Sheriff Hogrefe. Lucas Morten was arrested on suspicion of harbouring a fugitive.

He said they had learned the residents of the compound "were most likely heavily armed and considered extremist of the Muslim belief".

The message, apparently sent from someone at the compound, contained a desperate plea: "We are starving and need food and water".

The message said, "we are starving and need food and water", according to the sheriff.

Amid the many questions swirling for authorities about the children, the adults and the situation, one looms over all the others: Why?

One posted Jan 4. reads, "Dear Brothers and Sisters, please make duas for the safe return of my children and grandchildren; Siraj, Hujrah, Subhanah Wahhaj, son in law Luqman (Lucas) Morton, and daughter in law Maryam (Jany) Leveille and their children (my 12 grandchildren)".

On Dec. 10, 2017, in Clayton County, Ga., a woman reported Wahhaj had taken their young son Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj to the park nine days earlier and she had not seen them since, according to the Clayton County Police Department.

The boy's father was among five people arrested after the raid near the border with Colorado, and documents made public in a court filing Monday said the father told the boy's mother before fleeing Georgia that he wanted to perform an exorcism on the child because he believed he was possessed by the devil.

But the boy was not found where his father was arrested, which law enforcement officials described as a "compound" in Amalia, NM. They were arrested in the town of Taos and booked into jail.

While the missing 3-year-old boy was not found, police believe he may have been there recently. Sarij Wahhaj is being held without bail on a Georgia warrant for child abduction, deputies said. Reached by phone in NY, another relative Sadiqa A. Wahhaj, confirmed the little boy who is still missing is her nephew.

Both Sarij Wahhaj and Morten originally refused to follow verbal commands from the tactical squad but were both taken into custody. They had been involved in a vehicle accident on 13 December, and indicated to the responding officer that they were on their way to New Mexico for a camping trip.

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