Moms of 11 children found at makeshift compound arrested

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Lucas Morten and Siraj Wahhaj were both arrested after eight members of the Taos County Sheriff's Office converged on the home, described by police as a compound "surrounded by tires and an earthen berm" after securing a warrant to investigate the location of a missing 3-year-old kidnapped from Georgia.

Two men were arrested after police found them and the children in what one officer called "the saddest living conditions and poverty I have seen".

"Many more rounds of ammo were found in the makeshift compound that consists of a small travel trailer buried in the ground covered by plastic with no water, plumbing, or electricity", the sheriff's office said.

The group appeared to have been living at the compound for a few months, but the sheriff said it remains unclear how or why they ended up in New Mexico.

Officials in New Mexico say 11 children have been removed from a desert compound where they were living in "filthy" conditions with hardly any food.

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But Wahhaj and Morten initially refused to follow commands and Wahhaj was armed with a rifle and four handguns, Hogrefe said. Neither Ramzi or Imam Wahhaj could immediately be reached for comment.

So on Friday, the Taos County Sheriff's Office and state authorities executed a search warrant on the compound.

Eleven children were held with little food or water in a makeshift compound in Amalia, N.M., for an unknown period of time before police raided the location on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018.

Wahhaj had been wanted for child abduction.

The operation, which reportedly took all day, went off without any major issues or injuries to anyone involved, the Taos County Sheriff's Office said. Morten was charged with harboring a fugitive.

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"I believed this would most likely be the path that we would take and stand by my original decision to bring charges after CYFD investigators had an opportunity to conduct their independent investigation, which included interviews and obtaining information such as health and medical needs of the children from the three mothers", said Hogrefe in a statement. Three women, believed to be the children's mothers, were detained and later released.

Investigators said they had reason to believe a missing 3-year-old boy from Georgia, and his father, were at the compound.

Georgia authorities said Wahhaj was traveling through Chilton County on December 13 with seven children and another adult when their vehicle overturned.

What originally prompted law enforcement to raid the trailer, the belief that AG Wahhaj was at the compound, turned out to be false, the Sheriff's Office said.

They said the children, aged one to 15, had no shoes, were wearing rags and "looked like Third World refugees", BBC reported.

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The property leased in the sparsely populated Costilla Meadows subdivision a couple of miles from the Colorado border bears a resemblance to a partially built "earthship" - an ecologically designed structure made popular in Northern New Mexico.

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