New Mexico compound members face terrorism-related charges

Last August, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and four other adults were arrested at a remote compound in Taos, New Mexico. Siraj was wanted for taking his disabled son Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj from his mother’s home in Georgia and disappearing. It turned out that Siraj and the other adults had been living at the compound with 11 children in poverty conditions. After arresting the adults and searching the compound, authorities found the body of Abdul-Ghani on what would have been his 4th birthday. He allegedly died during an Islamic exorcism ritual.

Child abuse charges were eventually dropped against three of the five adults but all five were subsequently arrested by the FBI on gun charges. The larger question was whether the camp had been a training ground for some kind of terror attack. Prosecutors had initially claimed the children at the camp were being trained to shoot in preparation for a school shooting. Today, the Department of Justice published a press release saying all five adults have been charged with conspiring to attack federal officers:

A federal grand jury sitting in Albuquerque, New Mexico returned a superseding indictment on March 13 charging 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 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,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “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.”

The exact nature of the plot isn’t spelled out in the press release but there’s a bit more detail in the indictment:

Jany Leveille and Siraj Ibn Wahhaj instructed persons, including other occupants of the training compound, to be prepared to engage in jihad, to die as martyrs, and to engage in violent acts, including killing Federal Bureau of Investigation employees, government officials and military personnel.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Siraj Ibn Wahhaj is the son of a well-known New York imam. Back when the arrests were made last year, he told CNN his son was not a religious extremist:

The elder Wahhaj disputed a law enforcement characterization of his son’s religious beliefs as extreme. He said his son’s behavior could be extreme. He described him as high-strung, the kind of person who became angry when stopped at the airport by immigration officers.

But “to do something as extreme as this doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Looks like he was wrong about that. These weren’t just religious people living off the grid. These were (allegedly) would-be terrorists with their own training camp and shooting range.