Update: 8:56 p.m. The Taos County Sheriff's Office took 11 children into protective custody and arrested two men at a property in Amalia Friday (Aug. 3), one on a warrant for abducting his 3-year-old son from Georgia, according to a press release from Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe.
The toddler was not among the 11 children found at the compound. He was reported missing in December and may have a medical condition.
After obtaining a search warrant, eight members from Hogrefe's Special Response Team and members of the New Mexico Office of Special Investigations entered the property at the Costilla Meadows subdivision, where they arrested accused child abductor, 39-year-old Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, and Lucas Morton, 40, for harboring a fugitive.
Hogrefe said Wahhaj was armed with an AR-15 rifle. A loaded pistol was also found in his pocket. Five loaded 30-round magazines and four other loaded pistols were also discovered.
Searching the property, which Hogrefe described as a "compound" comprised of a small travel trailer buried underground without water, plumbing or electricity, the team made contact with five other adults and the 11 children, who ranged in age from 1 to 15-years-old. According to the press release, 3-year-old AG Wahhaj, the child believed to have been abducted from Georgia, was not among them.
Hogrefe described the conditions at the property as "filthy" and said its residents were poorly clothed, without shoes, and appeared to have had access to a limited food supply, consisting of "a few potatoes and a box of rice."
According to the press release, the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Division arrived on scene and took all 11 children into protective custody.
Three women believed to be the mothers of the children were detained and questioned, but later released pending further investigation.
Hogrefe said the operation was the result of a 2-month investigation conducted with detectives from Clayton County, Georgia and the FBI into the whereabouts of the abducted child and their alleged abductor.
Hogrefe said the FBI "didn't feel there was enough probable cause" to enter the property where the child was believed to be living.
After a Clayton County detective notified the sheriff of a distress message believed to have come from someone inside the Costilla residence which said in part, "we are starving and need food and water," Hogrefe said he began preparing for a search.
"I absolutely knew that we couldn't wait on another agency to step up and we had to go check this out as soon as possible, so I began working on a search warrant right after I got that intercepted message," Hogrefe said. "It had to be a search warrant and a tactical approach for our own safety because we had learned the occupants were most likely heavily armed and considered extremist of the Muslim belief."
Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, 3, was reported missing from his Jonesboro home by his mother Dec. 10, 2017, according to local Georgia media. She said he had gone with his father Siraj Ibn Wahhaj to a park and had not seen either of them since.
According to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the toddler had been missing since Nov. 29, 2017.
"The mother told police that her son has to take medication because he suffers from seizures, developmental and cognitive delays and is unable to walk due to suffering a Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) at birth. She also said she is not sure if her child has any medication with him," according to a report by Tiffany Sherrod of WTSP Channel 10 news in December, based on a statement from the Clayton County Police Department.
The toddler was placed on the Georgia Crime Information Center and National Crime Information Center Databases as a missing person in December.
Sherrod's report said the boy and his father were last seen Dec. 13 traveling with two adults and five children in Alabama when they were involved in a single-vehicle accident on Interstate-65.
"Police in Alabama found out the group was traveling to New Mexico for a camping trip," according to Sherrod. "After the accident, the group was picked up in a 2006 Ford Box-truck with Delaware tag number "CL085217". " Police told local media the license plate was registered to Lucas Allen Morton of Atlanta.
A landlord tenant resitution case was filed against a Lucas Allen Morton in June in Taos Magistrate Court.
This is a developing story. Check back at taosnews.com for updates.