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


The hunt for a father who allegedly kidnapped his sick son in Georgia led to the discovery of 11 abused children in New Mexico.

They did not find the boy but arrested his father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, and four other adults on child abuse charges after finding 11 children at the compound, which authorities said was littered with "odorous trash" and lacking clean water. However, the boy was not at the compound when police executed a search warrant there. The Sheriff's Office said it believes the child had been at the trailer a couple of weeks prior.

"The only food We saw were a few potatoes and a box of rice in the filthy trailer", said Tao County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe, in a statement.

New Mexico sheriffs searching for a missing 3-year-old boy stumbled upon a heavily armed compound housing 11 starving children and possibly tied to Islamic extremists, authorities said Sunday.

They were turned over to state child welfare workers for their own health and safety, police said.

"That all changed for me when a message was forwarded to us from a Georgia detective that we reasonably believed came from someone at the compound".

Mr Morten was charged with harbouring a fugitive and Mr Wahhaj was detained on his Georgia warrant for child abduction. The former was "taken down" with a loaded pistol in his pocket, the sheriff said. "Each count is a third-degree felony".

It was not immediately clear whether Morten or Wahhaj had attorneys.

The first court appearances for those arrested are Tuesday and Wednesday, according to magistrate court officials.

The Taos County sheriff identified the women facing charges as Jany Leveille, 38-year-old Hujrah Wahhaj, and 35-year-old Subhannah Wahha.

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On Dec. 29, Clayton County police said they had obtained information that the group could be in the area of Taos, NM. Three women believed to be their mothers were also found in the makeshift compound on Friday.

The search at the compound came amid a two-month investigation in collaboration with Clayton County authorities and the FBI, according to Hogrefe.

After seeing the message apparently sent from someone at the compound asking for food and water, Hogrefe said he felt he needed to act.

Imam Siraj Wahhaj in a January Facebook post called for the safe return of his three children and 12 grandchildren, one of whom authorities say remains missing.

While the missing 3-year-old boy was not found, police believe he may have been there recently.

But one child could not be found: Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, a toddler who was reported missing from his Georgia home by his mother on December 10, 2017.

No criminal charges were filed as there was no custody issue, WGCL-TV said.

The last reports of the father and son being seen in public together came on December 13, when they were involved in a single-vehicle accident on I-65 in Chilton County, Ala.

The search began nine months earlier and 1,500 miles east - in Jonesboro, Ga., where a mother told police that her husband had taken little Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj to a park and never returned. The officer who helped them had been under the impression that they were headed to New Mexico to go camping.