Defendants in New Mexico compound case hit with new charges

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, federal prosecutors said on Thursday.The superseding indictment adds to firearms offenses already filed against the defendants in U.S. District Court following a raid at the makeshift training camp where a 3-year-old boy was found buried.

FILE PHOTO: A combination photo shows defendants Jany Leveille (L) and Siraj Ibn Wahhaj during a hearing in Taos District Court in Taos County, New Mexico, U.S., August 29, 2018. Eddie Moore/Pool via REUTERSREUTERS/File Photos

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

“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.

Federal public defender Kari Converse, a lead attorney for the defendants in the case, said she was out of state on Thursday and could not comment on the superseding indictment until she had studied it more thoroughly.

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 have been jailed since the raid on their high-desert compound north of Taos, where they had established a communal living arrangement with their children.

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

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.

The boy 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 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, New Mexico; Writing and additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by by David Gregorio and Peter Cooney