Authorities combing a compound in rural New Mexico found the remains of a young child on Monday, just days after 11 starving children were rescued from the same location, police said.
Taos County officials examine a disheveled living compound at Amalia, New Mexico where the remains of a child were found, August 7, 2018.
Taos county deputies found 11 children, ranging in age from 1 to 15 in unhealthy conditions at the makeshift compound in Amalia.
Police searched the complex Friday while looking for a 4-year-old boy whose mother reported him missing. They were filed before the remains, believed to be Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, were found.
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".
Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe did not confirm the identity of the body citing a pending autopsy.
However, it took a plea for help and the search for a missing Georgia boy to finally draw sheriff's deputies to the desolate site that was walled off by stacks of old tires, wooden pallets and other debris.
The boy was reported by his mother to suffer from multiple health issues, including seizures and a brain disorder that prevented him from walking and required regular medication, according to KOAT.
Authorities raided the compound Friday. "But Hogrefe said authorities have reason to believe the boy was at the compound several weeks ago".
In a court filing Monday, Abdul-ghani's father told the boy's mother before fleeing Georgia that he wanted to perform an exorcism on the child because he believed he was possessed by the devil. They were traveling with two other adults and five other children, and told police they were headed to New Mexico on a camping trip.
He said Federal Bureau of Investigation agents surveilled the area a few weeks ago but did not find probable cause to search the property.
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The children were removed and turned over to state child-welfare workers.
"What was most surprising and heartbreaking was when the team located a total of five adults and 11 children that looked like third-world country refugees".
Once authorities became aware of the compound, they began efforts to identify people living there through surveillance, but neither Wahhaj nor the boy were identified by those images, Hogrefe said.
The Badgers said they reached out to authorities in New Mexico and Georgia and gave the sheriff's office permission to search the property, but nothing was done until last week.
What authorities found was what Hogrefe called "the saddest living conditions and poverty" he has seen in 30 years on the job.
He proposed the group "swap" the property for land Badger said the group had purchased not far away from his home in Northern New Mexico.
Abdul-Ghani's mother, Hakima Ramzi, told CNN she hadn't seen her son in nine months and accused Siraj Wahhaj of abducting the then-3-year-old boy in November.
The children found on the grounds were placed in protective custody, officials said.
Authorities said in the news conference that they have not positively identified the remains as missing Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj. He and his men were met by Wahhaj and his colleague, Lucas Morten, who were armed with an AR-15 rifle, five loaded 30-round magazines and four loaded pistols, including one in Wahhaj's pocket.
That changed when Georgia detectives forwarded a message to Sheriff Hogrefe's office that initially had been sent to a third party, saying: "We are starving and need food and water".
Individuals found in the compound, described as a buried trailer, had "no shoes, personal hygiene, and basically dirty rags for clothing", Hogrefe said.