New Mexico police arrest men holding starving children in compound

New Mexico police arrest men holding starving children in compound

New Mexico police arrest men holding starving children in compound

A New Mexico sheriff says the remains of a boy have been found on at a makeshift compound which authorities raided last week in search of a missing Georgia child.

The Taos County Sheriff was emotional Tuesday as he told a room of reporters that his deputies found the body of a child on that compound Monday morning.

She told police that in December, the boy's father, 39-year-old Siraj Ibn Wahhaj - one of the five arrested on child abuse charges - took the boy on a trip to a park in Clayton County, Georgia, but never returned.

The body of Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, four, was discovered days after investigators found his mother locked up with two other women and the emaciated children at a heavily guarded compound in the desert.

Even though young Abdul-Ghani 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.

The remains of a young boy were found on a return visit to the site on Monday, on what would have been the missing child's fourth birthday, Hogrefe said.

The other boys "are all safe and their needs are being met", Henry Varela, communications director of the New Mexico Department of Children, Youth and Families, told AFP.

The second man has been alternatively identified by the sheriff as Lucas Morten and Lucan Morton.

He also wouldn't comment on the suggestion that Siraj Wahhaj, the missing boy's father, wanted an exorcism.

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.

Anderson said the children found inside the compound at first played at neighboring properties but stopped in recent months.

Mr Wahhaj told police the group was traveling from Georgia to New Mexico to go camping.

Law enforcement then "had enough probable cause for a search warrant" to search for Wahhaj and the boy on the property, Hogrefe said.

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Initially, the women were briefly detained for questioning but not criminally charged so that state child services could interview them for their own investigation, Hogrefe said.

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.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said the authorities were awaiting an identification of the remains. The minors are in protective custody.

Sheriff Hogrefe described the compound as "the saddest living conditions and poverty" he has seen in 30 years on the job.

However, Wahhaj himself was not found at the compound. The women are believed to be the mothers of the 11 children, who range in age from 1 to 15.

Deputies discovered several children and arrested two men during a raid at a compound in New Mexico Friday.

"We are starving and need food and water", read the message that provided the impetus for the raid on the rural compound near the Colorado border.

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

Hogrefe said the search did not turn up the missing boy, identified by the sheriff as AG Wahhaj, but that investigators had reason to believe the boy had been at the compound fairly recently.

They said the children, aged one to 15, had no shoes, were wearing rags and "looked like Third World refugees".

"We just figured they were doing what we were doing, getting a piece of land and getting off the grid", said Anderson, who moved to New Mexico from Seattle with his wife seven years ago.

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

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