New Mexico Officials: Remote Compound Searched, 11 Kids Removed

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

The children ranging in age from one to 15 were removed from the compound in the small community of Amalia, New Mexico, and turned over to state child-welfare workers, Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said.

Around 11 children and three women were also on the compound, in desperate need of food and water. "But what was most surprising, and heartbreaking was when the team located a total of five adults and 11 children that looked like third world country refugees with no food or fresh water, no shoes, and basically dirty rags for clothing", said Sheriff Hogrefe. Siraj Wahhaj was detained on an outstanding warrant in Georgia alleging child abduction.

More recently, investigators with the Clayton County Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation began narrowing in on their whereabouts and determined Wahhaj was staying at an improvised compound in Amalia, near the Colorado border. Morten was arrested for harboring a fugitive.

The sheriff said his deputies gave the children all the water and food they had while waiting for child services to show up at the trailer. It was not immediately clear whether the child, whose name is AG Wahhaj, is related to Siraj Wahhaj, who was arrested in the raid.

Mr Hogrefe told ABC it appeared the women and children "were brainwashed and feel great intimidation from the men that were in control of this facility".

A couple of days after they were reported missing, police say, the boy and his father were in a vehicle that was involved in a crash on an Alabama interstate.

No one was injured in the operation, the sheriff's office said.

What authorities found was what Hogrefe called "the saddest living conditions and poverty" he has seen in 30 years on the job.

Eleven children were rescued Saturday from squalid living conditions with little food and no water in a remote New Mexico compound, the Associated Press reports. The three women were taken into custody for questioning and were released, officers said.

The toddler, who suffers from seizures, developmental delay, wears braces on his legs, can not walk, and requires daily medication, went to the park in Clayton County with his father in December and never returned.

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)".

"The group was picked up in a 2006 Ford Box-truck with DE tag number "CL085217". Police told local media the license plate was registered to Morten. "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".

Wahhaj remained holed up inside a small, rickety trailer that was partially buried in the ground and covered with white plastic tarps.

The men had refused to follow verbal direction, police said, who added the raid went without major incident or injuries even as Wahhaj needed to be "taken down".

Wahhaj was booked on his warrant out of Clayton County.

Hogrefe said Wahhaj was armed with an AR15-style rifle and four loaded pistols when he was taken into custody.

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