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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 August 2018

US man accused of training children for school shootings

Five adults arrested after raid on New Mexico compound where 11 children were found in state of neglect

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, left, sits next to his lawyer in a state district court in Taos, New Mexico, on August 8, 2018. AP Photo
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, left, sits next to his lawyer in a state district court in Taos, New Mexico, on August 8, 2018. AP Photo

A man arrested in a raid on a squalid compound in the US state of New Mexico last week was training children living there to carry out school shootings, prosecutors said.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 40, was arrested along with four other people last Friday at the desert compound in Amalia, a small town near the Colorado border, and has been charged with 11 counts of child abuse.

Eleven children aged one to 15 were found living in the compound in filthy conditions, prosecutors said, with no clean water or electricity. Authorities also found little in the way of food. The children have been placed in protective custody.

Mr Ibn Wahhaj is also under investigation for the death of a 12th child whose body was discovered on the property.

Prosecutors quoted the foster parent of one of the children as claiming that Mr Ibn Wahhaj "had trained the child in the use of an assault rifle in preparation for future school shootings".

As a result, he faces another investigation for teaching "the use, application or making of any firearm, destructive device or technique capable of causing injury or death" with the intention that the knowledge be used unlawfully - which is classed as a felony.

"The defendant ... is under investigation ... based upon the training of children with weapons in furtherance of a conspiracy to commit school shootings," prosecutors said on Wednesday in a court filing requesting that Mr Ibn Wahhaj be held in custody.

"Trip hazards, woods with nails sticking up, broken glass, bottles, and open trenches littered the property," it added.

"Trash scattered around the property, no clean water, no electricity, no indoor plumbing and the children were clothed in rags."

Prosecutors also said loaded firearms were found at the compound.

They said Mr Ibn Wahhaj "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".

Three women believed to be the mothers of the 11 children found at the compound were also arrested in Friday's raid along with another man, Lucas Morton, and charged with child abuse.

Lucas Morton arrives at the state district court in Taos, New Mexico on August 8, 2018. AP Photo
Lucas Morton arrives at the state district court in Taos, New Mexico on August 8, 2018. AP Photo

Mr Ibn Wahhaj is wanted in the state of Georgia for the alleged abduction of his son. Authorities are investigating whether the remains found at the New Mexico compound are those of his missing son, Abdul.

Abdul was not found in the first raid on the compound, when the 11 children were discovered.

But officers returned to the site after questioning the suspects last week, which led them to believe that the boy was still there.

"We discovered the remains yesterday on Abdul's fourth birthday," Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said on Tuesday.

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

She also told authorities Mr Ibn Wahhaj wanted to exorcise his son because he considered that his disability was caused by a demon.

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