Published: Tue, August 07, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Police Locate 11 Children Living In Decrepit New Mexico Compound

Police Locate 11 Children Living In Decrepit New Mexico Compound

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said deputies arrested the father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, and four other adults on child abuse charges after finding the 11 children inside a filthy makeshift compound in the tiny community of Amalia littered with "odorous trash" and lacking clean water.

The sheriff said in a news release at the time of the men were arrested that the women were not cooperating with law enforcement officials. The three women were taken into custody for questioning and were released, officers said.

The same charges were filed against two Georgia men after the Taos Sheriff's Office executed a search warrant at the property Friday evening. Online court records don't list defense attorneys who could comment on their behalf.

Authorities in New Mexico say they served the search warrant after receiving a message from a Georgia detective that they believed came from the compound saying "we are starving and need food and water".

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

"I absolutely knew that we couldn't wait on another agency to step up and we had to go check this out as soon as possible, so I began working on a search warrant right after I got that intercepted message", he said in a statement.

Image: Siraj Wahhaj is suspected of abducting his three-year-old son.

Clayton County police said in a missing persons bulletin that Wahhaj and his son were last seen December 13 in Alabama, traveling with five other children and two adults.

Both Sarij Wahhaj and Morten originally refused to follow verbal commands from the tactical squad but were both taken into custody.

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"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.

Amalia is 145 miles northeast of Albuquerque in an isolated high-desert area near the New Mexico-Colorado border.

He said Federal Bureau of Investigation agents surveilled the area a few weeks ago but did not find probable cause to search the property.

No fresh water was found at the site, and the only food there was a few potatoes and a box of rice, police said. The children's ages ranged from 1 to 15 years old.

Wahhaj and another man, identified as Lucas Morten, were the two adults at the compound who appeared in charge. Siraj Wahhaj also was the subject of a warrant related to his missing son.

The Sheriff said the Federal Bureau of Investigation had "recently provided information and surveillance on this location, but they (FBI) didn't feel there was enough probable cause to get on the property".

Wahhaj is being held in police custody while the second man, Lucas Morten, has been charged on suspicion of harbouring a fugitive.

The children were turned over to the New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department, officials said, adding it was done for their "health and safety", the sheriff's office said.

The Sheriff's Office Response Team moved on the compound Friday morning with help from state investigators.

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