Monday, 22 October, 2018

Suspects in New Mexico child abuse case related to New York imam

Eleven children were held with little food or water in a makeshift compound in Amalia N.M. for an unknown period of time before police raided the location on Friday Aug. 3 2018 Taos County Sheriffs Office
Jay Anderson | 08 August, 2018, 16:16

Officials discovered the remains of a child at a makeshift compound in New Mexico where 11 emaciated children were found last week, the Taos County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday.

Taos County officials examine a disheveled living compound at Amalia, New Mexico where the remains of a child were found, August 7, 2018.

Hujrah Wahhaj, 38; and Subhannah Wahhaj, 35, were charged with child abuse related to the alleged neglect and abuse of children, who were found living in "filthy" conditions and with hardly any food, the Taos County Sheriff's Office said.

That man was one of the five adults arrested at the compound Friday, and the 11 children were put into protective custody - but it's unclear what happened to the missing Georgia boy, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj.

On Monday, authorities found a body at the site believed to be the remains of the missing boy, whose abduction from his Georgia home has been reported by his mother in December.

Morten was also charged with harboring a fugitive.

The boy was reported by his mother to suffer from multiple health issues, including seizures and a brain disorder that prevented him from walking and required regular medication, according to KOAT.

The defendants include the father of a missing boy whose disappearance led authorities to raid the compound last week. Hogrefe said. "On the conclusion of that, we had no legal right to hold that property any further, until Sunday when I obtained additional information that led me to prepare a second search warrant". She told police the father believed the boy was "possessed" and wanted to perform an "exorcism" on him.

Alabama police said they were told the group were going camping in New Mexico, the station said. He said he felt investigators had enough probable cause to put in an affidavit for a search warrant.

The children were removed and turned over to state child-welfare workers.

The Badgers said they reached out to authorities in New Mexico and Georgia and gave the sheriff's office permission to search the property, but nothing was done until last week.




So while his father sits in custody accused of abusing 11 other children, the search for Abdul continues.

"I've been working this job for 30 years, and I've never seen anything like this", Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe told the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper.

Wahhaj was located upon entry and taken into custody, as was another adult male who was on the compound, Lucas Morten, Hogrefe said.

In a federal court filing in 2006, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj claimed he was harassed on his way to and from Morocco by customs agents at JFK Airport in NY because he is "the son of the famous Muslim Imam Siraj Wahhaj".

Upon a search of the New Mexico property, Hogrefe said investigators found Wahhaj armed with an "AR-15 rifle, five loaded 30-round magazines, and four loaded pistols, including one in his pocket".

Over the weekend, Jason Badger and his wife Tanya, whose land the compound was erected on, said they went back to the property to look for Abdul-Ghani.

"We are starving and need food and water", the message said, according to authorities, who said it was forwarded to them but did not provide details on its origin.

The children wore dirty rags for clothing with no shoes, and were surrounded by weapons and rounds of ammunition, authorities said.

A New Mexico man who lived near the makeshift compound said he thought the group had moved to the area to live off the grid, just as he had done.

There was little food in the compound, which consisted of a small travel trailer buried in the ground and covered by plastic with no water, plumbing and electricity, he said.

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