Man arrested at New Mexico compound was allegedly training kids for school shootings

The New Mexico compound.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

On his remote compound in New Mexico, Siraj Wahhaj was training children how to commit school shootings, teaching at least one how to use an assault rifle to carry out an attack, prosecutors said in court documents filed Wednesday.

Wahhaj was arrested on Friday after authorities looking for his missing son found Wahhaj, four adults, and 11 children living in squalid conditions in Taos County. His 4-year-old son has several medical conditions, and was reported missing by his mother in Georgia nine months ago. The Associated Press reports that when officers arrived, Wahhaj was engaged in weapons training, and while searching the compound, they found four pistols, a military-style rifle, and a large amount of ammunition. Prosecutors said the kids were purposely brought to New Mexico for this training, in anticipation of carrying out future attacks.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said the children looked "like third-world country refugees not only with no food or fresh water, but with no shoes, personal hygiene, and basically dirty rags for clothing." There were three women at the compound who were later arrested, and they're believed to be the mothers of at least some of the children. Wahhaj, another man identified as Lucas Morten, and the women face felony charges of child abuse. Officers did not find the missing child on Friday, but they did discover the remains of a young boy on the property Monday that they are working to identify.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.