Defendants in New Mexico compound case hit with new charges

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By Andrew Hay

TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) – Five people taken into custody in August at a New Mexico compound where 11 children were found ragged and starving have been charged with a conspiracy to carry out attacks on U.S. targets, prosecutors said on Thursday.The superseding indictment adds to the previous federal firearms charges filed against the defendants following a raid at the make-shift training camp where a 3-year-old boy was found buried.

“The superseding indictment alleges a conspiracy to stage deadly attacks on American soil,” U.S. Attorney John Anderson said in a written statement to announce the new charges.

“These allegations remind us of the dangers of terrorism that continue to confront our nation, and the allegation concerning the death of a young child only underscores the importance of prompt and effective intervention by law enforcement,” Anderson said.

Attorneys representing the five defendants could not be reached for comment by Reuters on Thursday.

The indictment handed down by a federal court grand jury in Albuquerque charges Jany Leveille, 36, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 40, Hujrah Wahhaj, 38, Subhanah Wahhaj, 36, and Lucas Morton, 41, with federal offenses related to terrorism, kidnapping and firearms violations.  

The five suspects, who had established a communal living arrangement with their children in the high-desert compound north of Taos, have been in custody since the raid, which made international headlines.

The two men and three women are all related as siblings or by marriage. Three are the adult children of a prominent New York City Muslim cleric who is himself the biological grandfather of nine of the children involved.

Defense attorneys could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Prosecutors have said the 3-year-old boy found buried at the camp, the son of Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, died in a ritual to “cast out demonic spirits,” but his extended family believed he would “return as Jesus” to identify corrupt targets for them to attack.

Abdul-Ghani stopped breathing, lost consciousness and died during a ceremony in which his father put his hand on the boy’s head and recited verses from the Koran, Taylor testified, citing interviews with Ibn Wahhaj’s 15-year-old and 13-year-old sons.

The five had initially faced state child abuse charges, but that case was dismissed when prosecutors missed a procedural deadline.

Prosecutors said in court documents filed in September that the defendants were giving firearms instruction to the children “in furtherance of a conspiracy to commit school shootings.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by David Gregorio)