A father appearing in court after a raid at a New Mexico compound turns up 11 children living in squalor. Elizabeth Keatinge has more.
Two men who authorities said are extremist Muslims have been arrested in rural New Mexico, accused of kidnapping at least one child and training another to attack schools from their makeshift compound.
The men faced a brief court hearing Wednesday following their arrest Friday by the Taos County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities say the two men were living with three women and 11 starving kids in the ramshackle compound near Amalia, about four hours south of Denver, Colorado.
The three women are charged with child abuse. One of the men, Siraj Wahhaj, 42, was arrested on a kidnapping warrant from Georgia. The other, Lucas Morton, was arrested on suspicion of harboring a fugitive.
The body of Wahhaj’s son, 3, was found buried on the property, according to authorities. The boy disappeared from his Georgia home last year.
The sheriff’s office said Siraj Wahhaj was armed with an AR-15 rifle, four pistols and extra ammunition when he was “taken down” by the SWAT team. Police accuse Wahhaj of kidnapping his son and fleeing across state lines.
Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said in a statement that FBI surveillance showed Wahhaj was on the property, but federal officials lacked the evidence necessary to intervene. An intercepted message from the compound begging someone for food and water gave the sheriff’s office enough information to act, Hogrefe said.
“It had to be a search warrant and a tactical approach for our own safety because we had learned the occupants were most likely heavily armed and considered extremist of the Muslim belief,” Hogrefe said. “We also knew from the layout of the compound they would have an advantage if we didn’t deploy tactfully and quickly.”
No one was hurt in the raid, and 11 children ranging in age from 1 to 15 were placed into the custody of the New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department, the sheriff said. Authorities said they believe the children are related to the adults, but exact relationships are still being determined because the women have been reluctant to speak to investigators.
The father of a missing Georgia boy was training children at a New Mexico compound to commit school shootings, prosecutors said in court documents Wednesday, as authorities waited to learn if human remains found at the site were those of the boy. (Aug. 8)
Additional charges are pending further investigation, Hogrefe said.
Court documents say Wahhaj taught one of the kids “in the use of an assault rifle in preparation for future school shootings,” the Taos News reported.
Pictures publicized by the sheriff’s office show a tiny, garbage-strewn compound. Investigators say a long tunnel was also discovered beneath the area.
Wahhaj is related to Imam Siraj Wahhaj, a prominent Muslim cleric from the Masjid At Taqwa, a well-known mosque in Brooklyn.
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