USA police find 11 'starving' children at compound


The sheriff says it's possible they will face more charges.

Hogrefe said Wahhaj and Morton both initially refused to follow verbal commands given by officers.

Police in rural New Mexico have rescued 11 children from a "squalid" makeshift compound after receiving a tip that they were "starving" and desperately in need of food and water. The women are reportedly believed to be the children's mothers.

While Hogrefe said in a news release that the Federal Bureau of Investigation "didn't feel there was enough probable cause" to enter the property, the sheriff said "that all changed" for him when a Clayton County Police Detective relayed a distress message believed to have come from within the compound.

Amid the many questions swirling for authorities about the children, the adults and the situation, one looms over all the others: Why?

"That all changed for me when a message was forwarded to us from a Georgia Detective that we reasonably believed came from someone at the compound - the message sent to a third party simply said in part 'we are starving and need food and water, '" the sheriff said in a statement.

He said the children looked like "third-world country refugees" with no food, no fresh water, no shoes, "and basically dirty rags" for clothing. "I don't know his condition", said Hakima Ramzi in a tearful Facebook Live video in January pleading for the return of her son who she said had physical and mental disabilities.

The FBI had placed the compound under surveillance two months ago, Hogrefe said, but didn't have enough evidence that searching the property was essential. "Three women believed to be the children's mothers were also detained yesterday while investigators continue to sort out details of the case", the office added. He is wanted in connection with the abduction of his son, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, in Jonesboro, after the boy's mother reported him missing.

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The boy's mother told police her child, who she said suffered from seizures along with developmental and cognitive delays, went to the park with his father Wahhaj last December and never returned.

What started as a search for a 3-year-old Georgia boy led to a horrid discovery 1,400 miles away.

"The children are in our custody and our number one priority right now is their health and safety", New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department Secretary Monique Jacobson said in a statement, according to AP. The three women were taken into custody for questioning and were released, officers said.

"The only food we saw were a few potatoes and a box of rice in the filthy trailer", Hogrefe wrote in the news release.

After investigating, multiple agencies raided the compound Friday morning.

Police did not say how they tracked down Ibn Wahhaj and the others in Amalia, N.M., an unincorporated community in mountainous Taos County along New Mexico's northern border.

Ibn Wahhaj is facing an additional charge of abducting his son and Morton of harboring a fugitive. At this time, authorities have not arrested these women, though they were temporarily detained. However, the boy was not at the compound when police executed a search warrant there.