US police say 11 children rescued from ‘extremists’ at ‘filthy’ hideout

This Aug. 3, 2018, aerial photo released by Taos County Sheriff's Office shows a rural compound during an unsuccessful search for a missing 3-year-old boy in Amalia, N.M. (AP)
Updated 06 August 2018
0

US police say 11 children rescued from ‘extremists’ at ‘filthy’ hideout

  • The FBI had provided information and surveillance on the spot but “didn’t feel there was enough probable cause to get on the property

LOS ANGELES: Police say 11 children ages one to 15 were rescued in the US state of New Mexico after officers raided a makeshift compound occupied by armed “extremists.”
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,” as part of the operation connected to a months-long search for an abducted three-year-old, according to New Mexico’s Taos County sheriff’s office.
The investigation kicked off late last year on the opposite side of the country in Jonesboro, Georgia, where 39-year-old Siraj WahHajj of the state’s Clayton County was accused of kidnapping his toddler — who was ultimately not found.
The boy’s mother told police her child, who she said suffered from seizures along with development and cognitive delays, went to the park with his father WahHajj last December and never returned.
On August 2, Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe of Taos County in New Mexico issued a search warrant describing “a makeshift compound surrounded by tires and an earthen berm” in a subdivision, where WahHajj along with adult Lucas Morten were thought to be.
The FBI had provided information and surveillance on the spot but “didn’t feel there was enough probable cause to get on the property,” Hogrefe said.
“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.
“I absolutely knew that we couldn’t wait on another agency to step up and we had to go check this out as soon as possible.”
The sheriff described planning “a tactical approach for our own safety because we had learned the occupants were most likely heavily armed and considered extremist of the Muslim belief.”
On the morning of August 3, a dozen officers kicked off the “all day” operation, discovering the two men with an AR-15 rifle, five loaded 30-round magazines and four loaded pistols, including one in WahHajj’s pocket.
The men at first refused to follow verbal direction, police said, who added the raid went without major incident or injuries.
Morten was charged with harboring a fugitive and WahHajj was booked without bond on his Georgia warrant for child abduction.
Three women thought to be parents of the children now in protective custody were also detained for questioning, and were released pending further investigation.


Canadian diplomats hit by Cuba illness feel ‘abandoned’ -paper

People wait to enter the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba, in this September 29, 2017 file photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 23 min 55 sec ago
0

Canadian diplomats hit by Cuba illness feel ‘abandoned’ -paper

  • US and Cuban officials met at the State Department in September to discuss the mysterious health problems

OTTAWA: A group of Canadian diplomats who left the embassy in Cuba after suffering unusual health symptoms say their foreign ministry has abandoned them, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported on Monday.
Canada said in April it would remove the families of staff posted to Havana, where both Canadian and US diplomats have complained of dizziness, headaches and nausea.
The diplomats complained that the foreign ministry — unlike the US State Department — had said very little about the matter in public and did not appear to be making their case a priority. Getting specialized medical care has been difficult, they added.
“We did not expect to be abandoned, or more precisely, sacrificed — that’s how we’re feeling now,” the paper quoted one of them as saying.
Several of those affected believe Ottawa has said little in public because it wants to maintain friendly relations with Cuba, the Globe added.
An official at the Canadian foreign ministry did not respond directly when asked about the diplomats’ complaints that they had been abandoned, but said the situation was very difficult.
“It is really an unprecedented type of incident, which has a lot of uncertainty. Our response to it has evolved since we first became aware of it,” said the official, adding that Ottawa had done its best to make medical care available.
The official requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
US and Cuban officials met at the State Department in September to discuss the mysterious health problems. The United States has reduced embassy staffing in Cuba from more than 50 to a maximum 18.
NBC News said in September that US officials believe the health problems may have been caused by sophisticated electromagnetic weapons.
The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) — the union representing rank and file diplomats — said the initial government reaction had been inadequate, in part because no one had experience of such a problem.
“Everyone is worried because if you don’t know what something is, and it’s unpredictable, nobody can say for sure that (it) isn’t going to happen again,” PAFSO president Pamela Isfeld said in a phone interview. “I totally do not blame them for being very unhappy with this.”
Adam Austen, a spokesman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, said she was deeply troubled by the health problems the diplomats were experiencing.