Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Boy 'taken for exorcism' found dead as 11 children are freed

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
Glenn Montgomery | 08 August, 2018, 16:13

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.

Police in Taos, New Mexico, said that 11 children ages one to 15 were rescued after officers raided a makeshift compound occupied by armed "extremists".

Authorities said the search for 4-year-old Abdul-ghani of Georgia led them Friday to the squalid compound where they found his father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, four other adults and 11 children.

Even though young Abdul was reported missing, there was no child abduction warrant against Wahhaj because he was married to his son's mother - meaning they both had equal custody of the boy, Clayton County police said.

But it is unclear whether the remains uncovered Monday are those of a missing Georgia boy, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, who was nowhere to be found after authorities stormed the complex on Friday.

Hogrefe, in an August 4 statement, said that officials found the "occupants were most likely heavily armed and considered extremist of the Muslim belief".

Morton was taken into custody on suspicion of harboring a fugitive.

Now the father, Siraj Wahhaj, is sitting in a New Mexico jail. The boy's mother told 9NEWS' sister-station 11Alive in Atlanta that her son took medication for seizures and had developmental and cognitive delays. Police said the adults declined to give statements about the missing child, but he is believed to have been at the compound as recently as a few weeks ago. Documents made public in a court filing Monday said the father told the boy's mother before fleeing Georgia that he wanted to perform an exorcism on the child because he believed he was possessed by the devil. "For me, that was the breaking point, where I thought we finally had enough probable cause to put in an affidavit for a search warrant and present it to a district judge", the sheriff said.

Jason Badger, who owned the property where the compound was built, said he and his wife had pressed authorities to remove the group after becoming concerned about the children.

A defense attorney said criminal complaints accusing five adults of child abuse are sparse in detail, leading to uncertainty about how much investigative work has been done.

The cluttered compound had loaded firearms easily within the children's reach, and the group had been there for at least two months, the sheriff said.

"Yesterday, at 11:19 a.m. we did find remains of a young boy", said Taos County Sheriff Jerry L. Hogrefe said.

When deputies took Wahhaj into custody, he had a loaded revolver in his pocket and was wearing a belt with five loaded 30-round AR-15 magazines on it.

Two men were arrested during the search while two women at the compound were initially detained before being released pending further investigation, Hogrefe said.

"We are starving and need food and water", read the message.

The search for Abdul-ghani led authorities to the compound shielded by old tyres, wooden pallets and an earthen wall studded with broken glass. According to CNN, Wahhaj is himself the son of a prominent Muslim cleric of the same name in NY.

Sheriff Hogrefe's deputies are searching for the child, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and authorities in Georgia's Clayton County, where officials say the boy was living before his father took him around December 1, 2017.

Police described the compound as a small underground trailer covered by plastic, with no running water or electricity.

The trooper who wrote the report said he found no camping equipment in or near the vehicle but that Mr Wahhaj was in possession of three handguns, two rifles, a bag of ammunition, and a bulletproof vest.

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