Compound suspects built in tiny off-the-grid community

TAOS, N.M. — They arrived at the start of winter to set up makeshift living quarters on the high-desert plains of northern New Mexico, amid a tiny community of off-the-grid homes on 10-acre lots.

For a time, the newcomers appeared to adapt to life 10 miles (16 kilometres) from the nearest groceries in Amalia by installing solar electricity and stockpiling used tires — just like neighbours who used recycled materials for the region’s signature “earthship” self-built homes.

“We just figured they were doing what we were doing, getting a piece of land and getting off the grid,” said Tyler Anderson, a 41-year-old auto mechanic who lived nearby.

But by late spring, the extended Muslim family was the target of investigations and surveillance involving the FBI, the local sheriff and authorities in Georgia. The Taos County sheriff said they were searching for a 3-year-old boy who had abruptly disappeared in December with his father from Jonesboro, Georgia.

A raid on the property Friday led authorities to find five adults, one of them a heavily armed man identified as the missing boy’s father, and 11 malnourished children living in filth and without clean drinking water, the Taos County sheriff said. A second search of the property Monday led authorities to another grim discovery — the remains of a young boy that have since been sent to a medical examiner to be identified.

The missing boy’s father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, who is the son of a well-known imam in New York, is under investigation in the death of the unidentified child found on the property. He also is accused in court documents of training children at the compound to carry out school shootings after a foster parent of one of the 11 youths removed from the property reported the allegation to authorities.

Prosecutor Timothy Hasson included the claim in a court filing Wednesday, marking yet another dark turn in the story of a squalid compound that authorities have described as a small, camping trailer wedged into the ground. Wahhaj and the four other adults, including a man and three women, all have been charged with 11 counts of child abuse in the case.

“He poses a great danger to the children found on the property as well as a threat to the community as a whole due to the presence of firearms and his intent to use these firearms in a violent and illegal manner,” Hasson wrote in the filing as he sought to have Wahhaj remain jailed without bail.

Prosecutors did not bring up the accusation of the training for a school shooting during initial court hearings Wednesday for the abuse suspects. A judge ordered them all held without bond pending further proceedings.

Aleks Kostich of the Taos County Public Defender’s Office questioned the new accusations, saying the claim was presented with little information beyond the explanation that it came from a foster parent. He also has questioned “thin” criminal complaints filed against the five adults on child abuse charges, saying they are vague and may be legally insufficient.

While he did …read more

Source:: Nationalpost – News


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