A man arrested at a New Mexico compound last week was allegedly training children to carry out school shootings, according to court documents filed by state prosecutors Wednesday, The Associated Press reports.
Police arrested Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, the father of a missing Georgia boy, along with four other adults at a filthy, makeshift compound in Amalia during a raid on Friday. Officers discovered 11 children and the five adults living in a small trailer buried underground and covered in plastic and tires. They also found the remains of a young boy yet to be identified.
Wahhaj and the other adults arrested at the compound are facing child abuse charges. The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department took the children, ages 1 to 15, into protective custody.
In court documents filed Wednesday, prosecutors said a foster parent of one of the children removed from the compound told authorities Wahhaj had been training the youth to use assault rifles in preparation for a school shooting.
But Aleks Kostich, an attorney with the Taos County Public Defender’s Office, doubts the claim, he told the AP. The attorney said there is sparse evidence thus far to back it up, noting that he has no way of reaching the foster parent to verify the claim.
The Taos County Sheriff’s Office went to the compound on Friday to search for Wahhaj’s son, who was 3 years old when the boy’s mother originally reported him missing in December. The boy was not among the 11 children found living on the compound.
The compound had been under FBI surveillance for two months before police said they had enough evidence for a search warrant.
In a statement, Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe described squalid conditions at the compound, adding that both the adults and the children were close to starving.
“The only food we saw were a few potatoes and a box of rice in the filthy trailer,” the sheriff said during a news conference. Both the adults and the children looked like “refugees not only with no food or fresh water, but with no shoes, personal hygiene and basically dirty rags for clothing. We all gave the kids our water and what snacks we had ― it was the saddest living conditions and poverty I have seen.”
Hogrefe said police didn’t have enough evidence to get a search warrant for the compound until last week, when they received a third-party message from someone on the compound that said, “We are starving and need food and water.”
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.