Three 'mothers' arrested after 11 starving children found in New Mexico


The children, between the ages of 1 and 15, are now in protective custody.

Two men from Georgia are in custody, one - 39-year-old Siraj Wahhaj - on a warrant out of Georgia on child abduction and the other - Lucas Morten - on charges of harboring a fugitive, the Sheriff's Office said Saturday.

Other than a few potatoes and a box of rice, there was little food in the compound, which Hogrefe said consisted of a small travel trailer buried in the ground and covered by plastic with no water, plumbing and electricity.

Eleven children were found living in squalor in what Taos County authorities are calling a "makeshift compound" near the New Mexico/Colorado state line.

In all, 11 children were found being kept in deplorable conditions, provided no water, virtually no food, and they were barely dressed, according to Sherriff Jerry Hogrefe.

Taos County deputies were horrified by what they saw when they reached the compound.

Sheriff Hogrefe said the two men were believed to be of "extremist" belief and had initially refused to follow police instructions.

Morten, just like Wahhaj, would eventually be accused of child abuse at the New Mexico compound.

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Eight members of TCSO's Sheriff's Response Team and the State OSI Unit executed a search warrant on the compound on Friday after a message that was forwarded to the office by a Georgia detective. Investigators believe the child was on the compound within the last few weeks.

This handout photo released by the Taos County Sheriff's Office on Aug 4, 2018 shows a view of a trailer at a makeshift compound.

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".

The office said Morten and Wahhaj had been charged while at the Taos Adult Detention Center. The three women were taken into custody for questioning and were released, officers said. Armed with a search warrant, the officers found five adults, including Wahhaj, and 11 children at the compound.

According to CNN affiliate WGCL-TV, Abdul-Ghani's mother reported him missing on December 17, saying that she had last seen her son December 1, as he left to go to the park with his father.

The search for the boy, AG Wahhaj, is ongoing, the sheriff said.

Five adults were found at the scene, including two heavily armed men. Three women who law enforcement officials believe are the mothers of the 11 children - Jany Leveille, 35, Hujrah Wahhaj, 38, and Subhannah Wahhaj, 35 - were arrested without incident in Taos and booked in the jail. "Unbelievable", Hogrefe said. "These children were hungry, they were thirsty, they were filthy".

The property they had leased in the sparsely populated Costilla Meadows subdivision a couple miles from the Colorado border bears resemblance to a partially built "earthship", an ecologically-designed structure made popular in Northern New Mexico.