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Saturday Sep 01 2018

FBI arrests New Mexico compound members on new charges

Defendant Jany Leveille (L to R) sits next to her defence lawyer Kelly Golightley, defendant Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, and his defence lawyer Tom Clark at hearing in Taos County District Court in Taos County, New Mexico, US, August 29, 2018. Eddie Moore/Pool via REUTERS

TAOS: Five residents of a New Mexico compound were arrested on Friday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for violating firearms and conspiracy laws in what one of their lawyers described as a “bad development” for the group, who are accused of planning anti-government attacks.

Jany Leveille, 35; Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 40; Hujrah Wahhaj, 37; Subhanah Wahhaj, 35; and Lucas Morton, 40, were charged in criminal complaints filed in US District Court in New Mexico, the FBI said in a statement.

The arrests and charges came two days after two judges dismissed child abuse charges against the five defendants on procedural grounds and allowed three to be released from jail in Taos.

The FBI said it arrested the defendants “without incident” in Taos.

Marie Legrand Miller, the defence attorney for Hujrah Wahhaj, called the arrests “a very quick and peaceful turn-in".

Tom Clark, Ibn Wahhaj’s lawyer, said the arrests were not a huge surprise as the FBI had been “involved from the beginning”.

The five defendants, who are all black and Muslim, came under FBI surveillance in May at their remote settlement north of Taos after Leveille sent a letter to Ibn Wahhaj’s brother asking him to join them and become a “martyr,” state prosecutors said on August 13.

The five were first arrested following an August 3 raid by the sheriff that found a cache of firearms and 11 children with no food or clean water, according to charges. Three days later police found the body of Ibn-Wahhaj’s missing three-year-old son in a tunnel at the compound.

State prosecutors accused the five of training two of their teenage boys for attacks on “corrupt institutions”. The five have yet to be charged over the allegations.

The federal complaint charges Leveille, a Haitian national, with being in the US illegally and unlawfully in possession of firearms and ammunition. The other defendants are charged with aiding and conspiring with her.

The defendants face maximum sentences of between five and 10 years if convicted. Their first court hearing is on Tuesday in Albuquerque, the FBI said.

Lawyers for the other three defendants were not immediately available for comment.

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