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Search for missing toddler leads to discovery of 11 emaciated children

08 August, 2018, 16:12 | Author: Kristen Ingram
  • Father who took missing Clayton County child found in New Mexico; Kid still missing

The body of a four-year-old boy has been found in a dilapidated camp in the USA state of New Mexico where 11 children were rescued in appalling conditions, police said.

Sheriff's investigators who having been looking for a missing Georgia boy at a compound in Taos County, New Mexico, returned to the site believing they had a good idea of where to search, the sheriff said.

They had originally raided the compound in search of a missing four-year-old boy, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj. He was found inside the compound with an AR-15 rifle, five 30-round magazines and four loaded pistols.

Jerry Hogrefe, the Taos County sheriff, said that the boy's body lay near the compound. However, there was no sign of Abdul.

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.

Five adults, who were all either parents or aunts and uncles to the children, were initially arrested in the raid, and all five have been charged with 11 counts of child abuse.

The search for the missing boy began in January, when Wahhaj's estranged wife in Atlanta, Hakima Ramzi, reportedly recorded a video on Facebook pleading for help finding her son.

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

The group appeared to have been living at the compound for a few months.

"I had no probable cause to go onto this property". Hogrefe said. "On the conclusion of that, we had no legal right to hold that property any further, until Sunday when I obtained additional information that led me to prepare a second search warrant".

The public defender's office in Taos County did not immediately return telephone message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The boy's father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, was among those arrested in the compound raid that has since resulted in the series of disturbing revelations on the outskirts of Amalia, a tiny town near the Colorado state line marked by scattered homes and sagebrush.

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 father was arrested at the compound Friday along with his sisters Hujrah Wahhaj and Subhannah Wahhaj and two other adults - Lucas Morten and Jany Leveille. He said the images were shared with the mother of Abdul-ghani but she did not spot her son, and that photographs also never indicated the boy's father was at the compound.

He said the children looked like "third-world country refugees" with no food, no fresh water, no shoes, "and basically dirty rags" for clothing.

"The message sent to a third party simply said in part, 'We are starving and need food and water,'" Hogrefe said.

The sheriff declined to answer questions about what was going on at the compound, but he said a shooting range had been built at the property.

But at the time, the group told Alabama police they were headed to New Mexico for camping, and continued on their way. Georgia detectives forwarded the message to the Taos County Sheriff's Office. But he eventually stopped visiting.

From left: This Aug. 3, 2018, photo released by Taos County Sheriff's Office shows Lucas Morten.|A handout photo made available by Taos County Sheriff's Office shows the booking photo of Siraj Wahhaj issued on Aug. 05 2018. It was unclear how or why they ended up in New Mexico, Hogrefe said.

"Many more rounds of ammo were found in the makeshift compound that consists of a small travel trailer buried in the ground covered by plastic with no water, plumbing, or electricity".

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