Taos com­pound sus­pects in­dicted

Fed­eral ter­ror­ism charges note al­leged plans to kill FBI em­ploy­ees, mil­i­tary

Albuquerque Journal - - FRONT PAGE - BY ELISE KA­PLAN JOUR­NAL STAFF WRITER

Last sum­mer, New Mex­ico gar­nered na­tional at­ten­tion when five men and women were found liv­ing with their 11 chil­dren in a filthy makeshift com­pound out­fit­ted with guns and am­mu­ni­tion on a bar­ren site north of Taos.

On Wed­nes­day, those five men and women were in­dicted on fed­eral ter­ror­ism charges, in­clud­ing al­le­ga­tions they were plan­ning to kill FBI em­ploy­ees, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and mil­i­tary per­son­nel. Pros­e­cu­tors also say the crew was ac­tively try­ing to re­cruit oth­ers to join them and “die as mar­tyrs.”

It is the first time the ter­ror­ism-re­lated charges have been filed in New Mex­ico.

The su­per­sed­ing in­dict­ment re­turned by a fed-

eral grand jury in Al­bu­querque charges Jany Leveille, 36, Si­raj Ibn Wah­haj, 40, Hu­jrah Wah­haj, 38, Sub­hanah Wah­haj, 36, and Lu­cas Mor­ton, 41, with pro­vid­ing ma­te­rial sup­port to ter­ror­ists, con­spir­acy to mur­der an of­fi­cer or em­ployee of the United States, kid­nap­ping, pos­sess­ing a firearm while un­law­fully in the United States, and other charges.

“The in­dict­ment al­leges that the de­fen­dants con­spired to pro­vide ma­te­rial sup­port in prepa­ra­tion for vi­o­lent at­tacks against fed­eral law en­force­ment of­fi­cers and mem­bers of the mil­i­tary,” As­sis­tant At­tor­ney Gen­eral John De­mers wrote in a news re­lease. “Ad­vanc­ing be­liefs through ter­ror and vi­o­lence has no place in Amer­ica, and the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Di­vi­sion con­tin­ues to make pro­tect­ing against ter­ror­ism its top pri­or­ity.”

All five re­main in­car­cer­ated.

Leveille, a na­tive of Haiti, was in the coun­try il­le­gally and had pre­vi­ously been in­dicted on the fed­eral charge of pos­ses­sion of firearms by a per­son il­le­gally in the United States. The other four de­fen­dants had been fed­er­ally charged with con­spir­acy to give her firearms.

Their at­tor­neys said they were still con­fer­ring with their clients and didn’t wish to com­ment at this time.

A Mus­lim army?

The case first came to light in early Au­gust when the Taos County Sher­iff’s Of­fice an­nounced it had stormed a ram­shackle com­pound in Amalia, near the Colorado bor­der, look­ing for a dis­abled 3-year-old boy who had been ab­ducted from Ge­or­gia.

They ar­rested the boy’s fa­ther, Si­raj Ibn Wah­haj, and the four other adults. Their 11 chil­dren, ages 1 to 15, were placed in the cus­tody of the state’s Chil­dren, Youth and Fam­i­lies De­part­ment.

Three-year-old Ab­dulGhani Wah­haj was found dead and buried in a tun­nel a cou­ple of days later. He had re­port­edly suf­fered from Hy­poxic Is­chemic En­cephalopa­thy, or HIE, a con­di­tion that caused se­vere seizures and re­quired med­i­ca­tion, which he was ap­par­ently not given.

Si­raj Ibn Wah­haj, Sub­hanah Wah­haj and Hu­jrah Wah­haj are sib­lings and their fa­ther is a prom­i­nent imam at the Masjid AtTaqwa mosque in Brook­lyn, N.Y.

Si­raj Ibn Wah­haj is mar­ried to Leveille, and Sub­hanah Wah­haj is mar­ried to Mor­ton. Sub­hanah Wah­haj’s name is spelled Sub­han­nah Wah­haj in state court doc­u­ments.

The five adults ini­tially faced child abuse and other charges in state court, but the case was dis­missed due to missed dead­lines. Fed­eral au­thor­i­ties picked up the case in late Au­gust and re-ar­rested the group on fed­eral charges.

The case quickly took hold of the na­tion’s imag­i­na­tion, and news out­lets trav­eled to Taos from around the coun­try as re­ports emerged that the group was made up of “Mus­lim ex­trem­ists” who wanted to form an army to con­duct “ji­had.”

Ac­cord­ing to the su­per­sed­ing in­dict­ment filed in U.S. Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of New Mex­ico on Wed­nes­day, the adults were gath­er­ing weapons and am­mu­ni­tion, and main­tain­ing a train­ing camp to pre­pare for at­tacks on the gov­ern­ment, mil­i­tary and other in­sti­tu­tions.

Pros­e­cu­tors with the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Di­vi­sion’s Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Sec­tion wrote that, “In or about De­cem­ber 2017, in the Dis­trict of Ge­or­gia, Jany Leveille and Lu­cas Mor­ton so­licited one of Si­raj Ibn Wah­haj’s rel­a­tives to join the oc­cu­pants of the train­ing com­pound in the state of New Mex­ico, to bring money and firearms, and to die as a mar­tyr.”

They also say that from Oc­to­ber 2017 on­ward, “Jany Leveille, Si­raj Ibn Wah­haj and Lu­cas Mor­ton, and oth­ers known and un­known to the grand jury, know­ingly did con­spire, com­bine, con­fed­er­ate, agree, and act in­ter­de­pen­dently with each other to at­tack and kill of­fi­cers and em­ploy­ees of the United States.”

“It was a part and an ob­ject of the con­spir­acy that Jany Leveille, Si­raj Ibn Wah­haj and Lu­cas Mor­ton would kill of­fi­cers and em­ploy­ees of the United States, to wit, Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion em­ploy­ees, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, and mil­i­tary per­son­nel,” pros­e­cu­tors wrote.

The Al­bu­querque di­vi­sion of the FBI in­ves­ti­gated the case with the help of the U.S. De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, the Bureau of Al­co­hol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Ex­plo­sives, the Taos County Sher­iff’s Of­fice, and the Eighth Ju­di­cial Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice.

The com­pound was with­out run­ning wa­ter or a drainage sys­tem, and was formed from wood pal­lets, tires, a rick­ety camper, plas­tic tarps and sec­tions of adobe. Court doc­u­ments state that a fir­ing range was on one side of the prop­erty.

Au­thor­i­ties found 11 firearms, 500 rounds of am­mu­ni­tion, a bul­let­proof vest and other firearm ac­ces­sories, ac­cord­ing to the in­dict­ment. They also say they found a man­ual giv­ing in­struc­tions on how to per­form a ter­ror­ist at­tack and fight hand to hand.

“Dur­ing this lengthy and com­plex in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the safety of the com­mu­nity as well as that of the chil­dren at the Amalia com­pound has been our pri­or­ity,” James Langenberg, the Spe­cial Agent in Charge of the FBI Al­bu­querque Di­vi­sion, wrote in the news re­lease. “Cases such as these some­times take a while, but the FBI will never give up un­til jus­tice is done.”

ED­DIE MOORE/JOUR­NAL

The Taos County Sher­iff’s Of­fice and the FBI use shov­els to search a com­pound near the Colorado bor­der in Au­gust.

The Taos com­pound sus­pects are, from left, Lu­cas Mor­ton, Si­raj Wah­haj, Sub­hanah Wah­haj, Jany Leveille and Hur­jah Wah­haj.

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