Bosnians outraged by alleged abuse of children with special needs

By Maja Zuvela

SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Sarajevo’s prosecutor has launched an investigation into the alleged abuse of children with special needs at a state-run care home in Bosnia, after a lawmaker made public photographs and a video showing children tied to beds and radiators.

A protest in the Bosnian capital demanding the regional government take action drew several hundred people on Thursday. Nearly 2,000 people have meanwhile signed a complaint to the Sarajevo prosecutor about alleged abuse and neglect at the Pazaric care home, near the city.

Protesters in front of government buildings carried placards reading “Tie me if you dare” and “Children to schools, not chains”.

The prosecutor’s office said it has opened a case relating to the alleged abuses at the request of Federation Prime Minister Fadil Novalic.

Sabina Cudic, of the Nasa Stranka opposition party, shared the photographs and video in the parliament of the autonomous Bosniak-Croat Federation on Wednesday, describing conditions for the children at the home as “modern-day slavery”.

The home’s manager, who took over early this year, told a news conference on Wednesday that the photographs of the children had not been taken during his tenure and that care standards have improved, with a ban on “fixing” restraint.

Cudic told parliament that 27 out of 149 employees at the home were trained economists rather than qualified carers, and that night shifts were covered by only one person, often not medically trained.

An ombudsman, Jasminka Dzumhur, said her office had repeatedly warned about poor conditions in Bosnian care homes.

“We demand that professionals deal with our children — this is only the beginning of our fight,” said Edo Celebic, representing parents of children with special needs at Thursday’s protest.

Lawmakers agreed after Cudic’s evidence to form a working group to collect evidence and to discuss its report next week.

The Pazaric home care has been under scrutiny for months over suspected historic financial misconduct. Some staff have been replaced but protesters said the government-appointed managing and supervisory board should also go.

The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, Dunja Mijatovic, said the abuse allegations were “profoundly shocking” and urged the authorities to bring those responsible to justice. The European Union’s delegation in Bosnia said it was appalled.

The scandal adds to acute public dissatisfaction with Bosnia’s health and care network and its inefficient multi-layered government system.

“The system does not support us, they give nothing to our children,” said Mirsada Begovic, a mother of a disabled child who was among protesters on Thursday.

(Additional reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Facebook removes 3.2 billion fake accounts, millions of child abuse posts

Facebook removes 3.2 billion fake accounts, millions of child abuse posts
(Reuters) – Facebook Inc <FB.O> removed 3.2 billion fake accounts between April and September this year, along with millions of posts depicting child abuse and suicide, according to its latest content moderation report released on Wednesday.

That more than doubles the number of fake accounts taken down during the same period last year, when 1.55 billion accounts were removed, according to the report.

The world’s biggest social network also disclosed for the first time how many posts it removed from popular photo-sharing app Instagram, which has been identified as a growing area of concern about fake news by disinformation researchers.

Proactive detection of violating content was lower across all categories on Instagram than on Facebook’s flagship app, where the company initially implemented many of its detection tools, the company said in its fourth content moderation report.

For example, the company said it proactively detected content affiliated with terrorist organizations 98.5% of the time on Facebook and 92.2% of the time on Instagram.

It removed more than 11.6 million pieces of content depicting child nudity and sexual exploitation of children on Facebook and 754,000 pieces on Instagram during the third quarter.

Facebook also added data on actions it took around content involving self-harm for the first time in the report. It said it had removed about 2.5 million posts in the third quarter that depicted or encouraged suicide or self-injury.

The company also removed about 4.4 million pieces involving drug sales during the quarter, it said in a blog post.

(Reporting by Akanksha Rana in Bengaluru and Katie Paul in San Francisco; Editing by Maju Samuel and Lisa Shumaker)

U.S., allies urge Facebook not to encrypt messages as they fight child abuse, terrorism

By Joseph Menn, Christopher Bing and Katie Paul

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and allies are seizing on Facebook Inc’s plan to apply end-to-end encryption across its messaging services to press for major changes to a practice long opposed by law enforcement, saying it hinders the fight against child abuse and terrorism.

The United States, the United Kingdom and Australia plan to sign a special data agreement on Thursday that would fast track requests from law enforcement to technology companies for information about the communications of terrorists and child predators, according to documents reviewed by Reuters.

Law enforcement could get information in weeks or even days instead of the current wait of six months to two years, one document said.

The agreement will be announced alongside an open letter to Facebook and its Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, calling on the company to suspend plans related to developing end-to-end encryption technology across its messaging services.

The latest tug-of-war between governments and tech companies over user data could also impact Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp, as well as smaller encrypted chat apps like Signal.

Washington has called for more regulation and launched anti-trust investigations against many tech companies, criticizing them over privacy lapses, election-related activity and dominance in online advertising.

Child predators have increasingly used messaging applications, including Facebook’s Messenger, in the digital age to groom their victims and exchange explicit images and videos. The number of known child sexual abuse images has soared from thousands to tens of millions in just the past few years.

Speaking at an event in Washington on Wednesday, Associate Attorney General Sujit Raman said the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received more than 18 million tips of online child sex abuse last year, over 90% of them from Facebook.

He estimated that up to 75% of those tips would “go dark” if social media companies like Facebook were to go through with encryption plans.

Facebook said in a statement that it strongly opposes “government efforts to build backdoors,” which it said would undermine privacy and security.

Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of safety, told Reuters the company was looking at ways to prevent inappropriate behavior and stop predators from connecting with children.

This approach “offers us an opportunity to prevent harms in a way that simply going after content doesn’t,” she said.

In practice, the bilateral agreement would empower the UK government to directly request data from U.S. tech companies, which remotely store data relevant to their own ongoing criminal investigations, rather than asking for it via U.S. law enforcement officials.

The effort represents a two-pronged approach by the United States and its allies to pressure private technology companies while making information sharing about criminal investigations faster.

A representative for the U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment.

Susan Landau, a professor of cybersecurity and policy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said disputes over encryption have flared on-and-off since the mid-1990s.

She said government officials concerned with fighting child abuse would be better served by making sure investigators had more funding and training.

“They seem to ignore the low-hanging fruit in favor of going after the thing they’ve been going after for the past 25 years,” she said.

The letter addressed to Zuckerberg and Facebook comes from U.S. Attorney General William Barr, UK Secretary of State for the Home Department Priti Patel and Australian Minister of Home Affairs Peter Dutton.

“Our understanding is that much of this activity, which is critical to protecting children and fighting terrorism, will no longer be possible if Facebook implements its proposals as planned,” the letter reads.

“Unfortunately, Facebook has not committed to address our serious concerns about the impact its proposals could have on protecting our most vulnerable citizens.”

WhatsApp’s global head Will Cathcart wrote in a public internet forum https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21100588 on Saturday that the company “will always oppose government attempts to build backdoors because they would weaken the security of everyone who uses WhatsApp including governments themselves.”

That app, which is already encrypted, is also owned by Facebook.

(Reporting by Joseph Menn and Katie Paul in San Francisco and Christopher Bing in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Victims of north Nigerian institution share stories of terror

People protest outside the building where hundreds of men and boys were rescued from captivity by police in Kaduna, Nigeria September 28, 2019. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

By Alexis Akwagyiram

KADUNA, Nigeria (Reuters) – When Jibril had tried to escape as a boy from an institution in Nigeria that called itself a place of Islamic teachings, he said he was hung up by his arms until bones in his shoulders broke.

Another teenager, one of about 400 men and boys freed in Thursday’s police raid, said boys were often kept in chains and those caught stealing food were whipped until they bled.

“They used car engine belts and electrical cables to flog us,” 15-year-old Suleiman told Reuters, staring at the floor. “Teachers used to sexually harass us … They tried to loosen my pants once but I fought them off and was beaten.”

Horror stories are emerging about life in a two-story house in Nigeria’s northern city of Kaduna as the authorities try to find families of the victims who often spent years at the site.

Police arrested seven adults in the raid on the building, which had a sign in Arabic at the entrance declaring itself “House of Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal for the Application of Islamic Teachings”.

Some parents paid fees, believing it was an Islamic school. Some described it as a good institution and dismissed talk of abuse. Others saw it as a correctional facility. Police and regional officials said it was not registered as either.

Despite mixed accounts about its role, the abuse reported by victims has thrown a spotlight on Nigeria’s struggle to provide enough school places for its rapidly expanding population, leaving a gap for unregulated institutions that poor parents sometimes turn to.

The West African nation’s population will swell from 190 million to 400 million by 2050, according to U.N. figures. Primary education is officially free but about 10.5 million Nigerian children aged five to 14 are not in school.

“Nigeria is facing a demographic tidal wave,” said Matthew Page, an associate fellow with the Africa Programme at Britain’s Royal Institute of International Affairs.

“The long-term viability of the Nigerian economy – and the state itself – hinges on the government, religious, and traditional institutions developing a plan to address this challenge before it becomes impossible to remedy,” he said.

Prior to Thursday’s police raid, those who made it out of the Kaduna institution were sometimes returned by families. Some parents said they needed to discipline wayward children and others said they were too poor to look after all their kids.

Kaduna state government said there were at least 77 boys under 18 years old held there. The youngest was five.

Reuters spoke with seven victims and five parents of those who had been inside, withholding their full names to protect their privacy.

SHACKLED

All the victims said beatings were regular and said children and men were frequently shackled. Days were dark, long and hungry: food was only served at 10 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Suleiman’s elder brother sent him to the institution five months ago for skipping school. He was signed up to board while he studied Arabic and Islam’s holy book, the Quran.

“They beat us everywhere in the house, even in the mosque. If you asked to speak with your family, they would shackle you,” said the 15-year-old, who showed sores, scabs and scars on back.

When Suleiman and three friends were caught trying to steal some garri – a staple food made from cassava shavings – they were stripped and whipped, he said.

“When the police raided the school the whole place was in pandemonium, we were so happy,” he said. “What I want now is to return home. I’ll be a good boy.”Jibril, now 17 and who was hung up for trying to escape when he was 10, said boys faced a stark choice: submit to regular sexual assault or be beaten. Jibril chose beatings.

“The teachers and prefects raped boys. Those who were sexually molested were enticed with canned fish. Those of us who refused were caned,” he said, blaming a scar beside his left eye on a caning. “They used planks of wood to beat us.”

He now struggles to raise his arms since his punishment for trying to escape. He was sent home for six months after that incident. His family returned him when he had healed.

Jibril and Suleiman are now in a safe house on the edge of Kaduna while the authorities try to find their relatives. Their temporary home is filled with laughter as boys and teenagers, up to 17 years old, play together. Those adults who were freed are staying in a neighboring building.

At the Kaduna institution, relatives were not allowed to see boys for three months after admission and had limited visiting rights after that, parents and children said. Punishment was swift for those who talked of any abuse, boys said.

“If anyone tried to tell their family, they would be hung up from a wall or put in chains,” said 14-year-old Umar, whose grandfather sent him to the facility two years ago for skipping school.

SEXUAL ABUSE

About 40 police officers finally raided the building, acting on a complaint by an uncle who was denied access to his nephews.

Police said they found several boys and men in chains. Reuters filmed victims in chains on Thursday after the raid. Some boys said they were shackled to broken power generators, which they dragged around, including to bed or the bathroom.

Police said they expected to charge seven people, who they said ran the institution, over physical and sexual abuse allegations. Those arrested could not be reached for comment.

The building lies in Rigasa, a rundown Muslim district of Kaduna, a city that, like Nigeria, is evenly split between Muslims and Christians.

Reuters journalists who visited the labyrinthine building saw wheels and generators attached to metal chains. Floors were strewn with litter and stained sponge mattresses. Flies swarmed.

Children begged in the traffic on the streets outside.

Islamic schools, known as Almajiris, are common across the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria. Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), a local organization, estimates about 10 million children attend Islamic schools in the north.

President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim, has sought to encourage school attendance, with programs that include one offering free school meals that the government says reaches 9.8 million children in 32 of Nigeria’s 36 states.

But Nigeria, an oil-producing state whose finances by the government’s admission have been drained by corruption, only spends 0.5% of gross domestic product on health and 1.7% on education, among the lowest worldwide, the International Monetary Fund said.

With few options, some parents defended the Kaduna institution, which charged fees of 35,000 naira ($114) a term.

“There is no problem in this school,” said a woman who only gave her name as Zainab, wearing a Muslim veil and speaking outside the locked gates. She said she had seven children at the institution where she cooked meals and had not seen any abuse.

Ahmed Balrabe, a tailor who lives next to the site, said two of his children attended the school and he had never encountered any abuse. “It was good for them, they became calm,” he said. “They showed them how to read the Quran. I liked it.”

(Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram; Additional reporting by Garba Muhammad and Afolabi Sotunde; Editing by Katharine Houreld and Edmund Blair)

California couple faces sentencing in severe child abuse case

FILE PHOTO: Louise Anna Turpin (L) and David Allen Turpin make a court appearance in Riverside, California, U.S. May 4, 2018. Watchara Phomicinda /The Press -Enterprise/Pool via REUTERS

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A Southern California couple who pleaded guilty to charges stemming from grim, headline-making accusations they beat, starved and shackled their 13 children in the family’s home were due to be sentenced on Friday to 25 years to life in prison.

David Turpin, 57, and his wife Louise Turpin, 50, agreed to the long prison terms as part of an agreement with Riverside County prosecutors that saw them plead guilty in February to torture, child abuse and false imprisonment charges.

The plea deal, which calls for additional charges against both spouses to be dropped, means they will spend the rest of their lives in prison unless granted parole after a mininum of 25 years behind bars.

The sentencing marks the culmination of a criminal case that has convulsed the community of Perris, California, some 70 miles (113 km) east of Los Angeles, since an emaciated 17-year-old girl climbed out of a window of the family’s home and called 911.

Deputies who raided the residence found the girl&rsquo;s 12 brothers and sisters, ranging in age from 2 to 29, trapped inside the darkened, foul-smelling house, some of them chained to beds.

The siblings, found to be suffering from malnourishment, muscle wasting, stunted growth and other signs of severe abuse, were taken into protective custody, and the parents were arrested.

Prosecutors said the victims had been denied proper nutrition, basic hygiene and medical care and were harshly punished for perceived infractions such as wasting water by washing their hands above the wrist.

The couple also were accused of taunting their children with pies and other food that they were forbidden to eat.

David Turpin&rsquo;s parents, James and Betty Turpin of West Virginia, have said their son and daughter-in-law were a deeply religious couple who home-schooled their children and required them to memorize Bible scripture.

The children, whose ages now range from 3 to 30, are in the care of child and adult protection agencies.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Tom Brown)

New Mexico compound member in U.S. illegally over 20 years: government

A view of the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay

TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) – A Haitian woman who was charged with child abuse at a New Mexico compound has been taken into custody by immigration authorities after living in the United States illegally for over 20 years, federal officials said on Wednesday.

Jany Leveille, 35, was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Taos County on Tuesday and must appear before a judge to resolve her immigration status, according to a statement by ICE.

The immigration proceeding, which could lead to Leveille’s deportation, follows a raid on the compound Aug. 3 in which police said they found 11 children living in dirty conditions with no food or water. Three days later, police unearthed the body of a toddler at the ramshackle settlement north of Taos.

“Leveille has been unlawfully present in the U.S. for more than 20 years after overstaying the validity of her non-immigrant visitor visa,” an ICE statement said.

Kelly Golightley, Leveille’s lawyer, declined comment.

Leveille moved to Brooklyn from Haiti in 1998 after their father died, according to her brother Von Chelet Leveille. She then moved several times between Georgia, Philadelphia and New York, following her separation from her first husband, Von Chelet Leveille said in a phone interview from Haiti.

Leveille had lived at the compound near Amalia, New Mexico since January with her husband Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and children, according to prosecutors. Her six children range in age between 1 and 15, her brother said.

Leveille, Ibn Wahhaj and three other adults at the compound were charged with child abuse on Aug. 8 and their 11 children were taken into protective custody.

The body found at the compound is believed to be that of Ibn Wahhaj’s severely ill 3-year-old son, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj. Ibn Wahhaj is accused of abducting the boy from a second wife in Georgia in December. Prosecutors allege the boy later died as Ibn Wahhaj carried out a faith-healing ritual on him at the compound.

Prosecutors have accused Ibn Wahhaj of leading firearms training of two teenage boys at the compound to carry out attacks on schools, banks, and police.

Lawyers for the five defendants say they are being discriminated against because they are black Muslims who practiced faith healing and taught their children how to shoot. Neighbors and relatives dispute allegations the children were starving.

A district judge received death threats on Tuesday after she granted bail to the defendants.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Lisa Shumaker)

Off-the-grid dream becomes nightmare in New Mexico compound

Personal articles are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay

By Andrew Hay

AMALIA, N.M. (Reuters) – One of the leading members of a group prosecutors accused of abusing children at a New Mexico compound struggled with his plan to live off the grid after he underestimated a harsh mountain desert climate and settled on the wrong plot of land.

Relatives and neighbors say things began to go downhill for Lucas Morton, 39, shortly after he arrived in this vast alpine valley about 40 miles (64 km) north of Taos in a white moving van last December.

His brother-in-law Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, wanted in Georgia for child abduction, soon joined them together with his wife, sister, and children.

The families set up home on a 10-acre plot of land that was near to one owned by Morton, a carpenter, but which actually belonged to U.S. Army veteran Jason Badger. The vet filed a court complaint but the Morton and Wahhaj families stayed on the land.

With snow and bitter north winds, the families began to suffer. At the suggestion of neighbors, Morton dug a hole and put a camping trailer in it to seek shelter.

A view of the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay

A view of the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay

Land is cheap in the valley, around $850 an acre, but winter temperatures can drop to -30 Fahrenheit (-34 C). Attempts at communal living in northern New Mexico have struggled or failed, going back to 1970s’ communes.

The adults and 11 children used wood to cook, hauled water from neighbors’ wells and got heat from propane heaters. Their shelters kept blowing away, a neighbor said.

Morton was one of five adults arrested at the compound on Aug. 3 on child abuse charges and accused by prosecutors of giving weapons training to a child to carry out school shootings.

No-one was specifically charged over the school shooting accusation and Defense Attorney Aleksandar Kostich told reporters that prosecutors had provided no evidence of the allegation, which came from a foster parent who is caring for one of the children.

Morton was also charged with harboring a felon, Ibn Wahhaj, who was armed with an AR-15 rifle, five magazines of ammunition, and four handguns when arrested, according to police.

Ibn Wahhaj is accused of abducting his seriously-ill, three-year-old son Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj in December from his mother in Georgia. On Monday a body, believed to be that of the boy was found buried at the compound, police said.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe first referred to the suspects as “extremist of the Muslim belief,” but declined to elaborate when later asked about it by reporters.

Public defenders representing the five adults, who are in Taos County jail, did not respond to requests for comment.

Personal articles are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay

Personal articles are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay

‘GET OUT OF SOCIETY’

Morton and his 15-year-old nephew Mohammed last November attended a four-week, $2,500 course in Taos on how to build an “earthship” – an eco-house made largely of earth-filled tires.

“All they wanted to do was get out of society, get away, homestead and live a peaceful life by themselves,” said Morton’s father Gerard Jabril Abdulwali, 64.

Inside Morton’s abandoned van at the compound, “I love my family” is written over hearts drawn on the first page of a notebook belonging to “Aisha,” one of his four children.

There are signs the group made friends locally.

A local man gave Morton hundreds of tires to build an earthship home. A neighbor gave him wood to build bunk beds, and another helped them hook up solar panels.

These people said police drones began to circle the area in late May or June. Badger told local media he had earlier informed Georgia police that the abducted boy was at Morton’s home.

In the next months, the home began to look more like a compound. The families stacked tires around it and built what look like defensive walls. A 150-foot tunnel leads to what appear to be escape holes among sagebrush and Chamisa bushes.

“I got the feeling Lucas didn’t want what he was in anymore,” said neighbor Tyler Anderson, 41, a car-body technician, who showed Morton how to wire up solar panels.

Anderson said near daily target shooting at the house stopped once the drones appeared.

The arrests at the compound made one neighbor, who described himself only as “Quincy,” stand at his gate and cry.

He and other locals disputed police reports the Morton and Wahhaj children were found ragged and starving.

“I made sure everyone in that place had shoes and clothes. They weren’t hungry,” said the man.

Morton’s wife Subhannah Wahhaj, 35, regularly went grocery shopping with Quincy’s wife. Their last trip, was on Aug. 2, Quincy said. Police launched the raid the next day.

(Adds name of army veteran in paragraph 4, corrects name to Morton from Morgan in paragraph 5)

(Reporting by Andrew Hay; Editing by Alistair Bell)

New Mexico child abuse suspects accused of training children for shootings

Conditions at a compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken into protective custody for their own health and safety after a raid by authorities, are shown in this photo near Amalia, New Mexico, U.S., provided August 6, 2018. Taos County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS

By Andrew Hay

TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) – Five adults charged with abusing 11 children at a New Mexico compound, where they were found ragged and starving, were training those children to use firearms to commit school shootings, prosecutors said in court documents on Wednesday.

The principal suspect, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, also was charged with abducting his 3-year-old son from his home in Atlanta last December, prompting a cross-country manhunt that led authorities to the compound they raided last Friday north of Taos, New Mexico.

Remains of a young boy believed to be the missing child were found on the property on Monday, on what would have been his fourth birthday, but have not been positively identified, authorities said. The 11 children found alive, ranging in age from 1 to 15 years old, were placed in protective custody.

At an arraignment on Wednesday, Mahhaj and his four co-defendants, Lucas Morton and three women presumed to be the mothers of the 11 surviving children, each pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of felony child abuse. Morton also was charged with harboring a fugitive.

Prosecutors made no mention of motive or ideology in court filings or during court proceedings on Wednesday.

In petitions seeking to detain all five suspects without bail, prosecutors said each was under investigation in the boy’s death.

No weapons charges were filed in the case, but prosecutors said the defendants were suspected of training children “with weapons in furtherance of a conspiracy to commit school shootings.”

Prosecutors said the allegation of weapons training was based on statements from a foster parent for one of the children.

SHOOTING RANGE

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe referred over the weekend to the suspects as “extremists of Muslim belief,” but he declined to elaborate when asked about it on Tuesday by reporters.

The women, who appeared in court on Wednesday with white sheets over their heads, were identified as Jany Leveille, Subhannah Wahhaj and Hujrah Wahhaj. One of the men wore a towel over his head in the style of a Mideastern keffiyeh, or headdress.

Hogrefe said on Tuesday that investigators found a shooting range at one end of the squalid compound, situated near the Colorado border.

The sheriff has said he sought a search warrant for the compound after a distress message was passed on to authorities in Georgia and shared with his office. He said the FBI was also investigating.

Wahhaj, 39, whose first name was mistakenly presented in some court documents as Huraj, has been described as being in control of the compound. He was heavily armed when taken into custody, Hogrefe said.

According to court documents, when the children were found they were in rags and appeared to have gone days without food, and loaded firearms were within their reach.

Aleksandar Kostich, a public defender representing the five adults, said the identical wording of the allegations about weapons training in each petition suggested that prosecutors were less than certain about the information they were given.

A man who identified himself to reporters as Gerard Jabril Abdulwali, 64, of Alexandria, Egypt, and the father of Morton, attended the court hearing, during which he shouted, “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great.”

He told reporters afterward that was in the United States for medical reasons and had not heard from his son since last year until he received a text message from Morton last Thursday that said “they were starving.”

Abdulwali said his son and the other suspects were “peaceful adult settlers.”

“They were homesteading and were trying to establish a peaceful community, a peaceful life away from society,” he said. “They just went about it the wrong way.”

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill Tarrant, Toni Reinhold)

Five charged with child abuse at New Mexico compound due in court; body of child found

Conditions at a compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken into protective custody for their own health and safety after a raid by authorities, are shown in this photo near Amalia, New Mexico, U.S., provided August 6, 2018. Taos County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS

TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) – Five people charged with felony child abuse were due to make their first court appearance on Wednesday after 11 children were found malnourished inside a ramshackle compound in northern New Mexico.

The defendants include the father of a missing boy whose disappearance led authorities to raid the compound last week. They also include another man and three women presumed to be the mothers of the 11 children, who were taken into protective custody.

On Monday, authorities found a body at the site believed to be the remains of the missing boy, whose abduction from his Georgia home has been reported by his mother in December. His body was discovered on what would have been the missing child’s fourth birthday, the Taos County sheriff said on Tuesday.

Identification of the remains was awaiting an autopsy. Further charges in the case were possible, local prosecutor Donald Gallegos said.

The compound, surrounded by tires and a trench, is located on the outskirts of Amalia, New Mexico, near the Colorado state line, about 50 miles (80 km) north of Taos.

Each of the five adults were charged with 11 counts of felony child abuse, according to the local prosecutor, Donald Gallegos.

The missing boy’s father, who the sheriff said was heavily armed when taken into custody, was identified as Siraj Wahhaj, 39. According to CNN, Wahhaj is himself the son of a prominent Muslim cleric of the same name in New York.

The second man has been alternatively identified by the sheriff as Lucas Morten and Lucan Morton.

The sheriff declined to answer questions about what was going on at the compound, but he said a shooting range had been built at the property.

(Reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, editing by Larry King)

Exclusive: $6 for 38 days work: Child exploitation rife in Rohingya camps

Azimul Hasan, 10, a Rohingya refugee boy, serves plates at a roadside hotel where he works at Jamtoli, close to Palong Khali camp, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, November 12, 2017.

By Tom Allard and Tommy Wilkes

COX’S BAZAR/KUTUPALONG, Bangladesh (Reuters) – Rohingya refugee children from Myanmar are working punishing hours for paltry pay in Bangladesh, with some suffering beatings and sexual assault, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has found.

Independent reporting by Reuters corroborated some of the findings.

The results of a probe by the IOM into exploitation and trafficking in Bangladesh’s refugee camps, which Reuters reviewed on an exclusive basis, also documented accounts of Rohingya girls as young as 11 getting married, and parents saying the unions would provide protection and economic advancement.

About 450,000 children, or 55 percent of the refugee population, live in teeming settlements near the border with Myanmar after fleeing the destruction of villages and alleged murder, looting and rape by security forces and Buddhist mobs.

Afjurul Hoque Tutul, additional superintendent of police in Cox’s Bazar, near where the camps are based, said 11 checkpoints had been set up that would help prevent children from leaving.

“If any Rohingya child is found working, then the owners will be punished,” he said.

Most of the refugees have arrived in the past two and a half months after attacks on about 30 security posts by Rohingya rebels met a ferocious response from Myanmar’s military.

Described by the United Nations human rights commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, Myanmar’s government counters that its actions are a proportionate response to attacks by Rohingya “terrorists”.

The IOM’s findings, based on discussions with groups of long-term residents and recent arrivals, and separate interviews by Reuters, show life in the refugee camps is hardly better than it is in Myanmar for Rohingya children.

The IOM said children were targeted by labor agents and encouraged to work by their destitute parents amid widespread malnutrition and poverty in the camps. Education opportunities are limited for children beyond Grade 3.

Azimul Hasan, 10, a Rohingya refugee boy, stands inside a roadside hotel where he works at Jamtoli, close to Palong Khali camp, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, November 12, 2017.

Azimul Hasan, 10, a Rohingya refugee boy, stands inside a roadside hotel where he works at Jamtoli, close to Palong Khali camp, near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

Rohingya boys and girls as young as seven years old were confirmed working outside the settlements, according to the findings.

Boys work on farms, construction sites and fishing boats, as well as in tea shops and as rickshaw drivers, the IOM and Rohingya residents in the camp reported.

Girls typically work as maids and nannies for Bangladeshi families, either in the nearby resort town of Cox’s Bazar or in Chittagong, Bangladesh’s second-largest city, about 150 km (100 miles) from the camps.

One Rohingya parent, who asked not to be identified because she feared reprisals, told Reuters her 14-year-old daughter had been working in Chittagong as a maid but fled her employers.

When she returned to the camp, she was unable to walk, her mother said, adding that her daughter’s Bangladeshi employers had physically and sexually assaulted her.

“The husband was an alcoholic and he would come to her bedroom at night and rape her. He did it six or seven times,” the mother said. “They gave us no money. Nothing.”

The account could not be independently verified by Reuters but was similar to others recorded by the IOM.

Most interviewees said female Rohingya refugees “experienced sexual harassment, rape and being forced to marry the person who raped her”, the IOM said.

A 12 year old Rohingya girl who worked as domestic help in a house in Bangladesh, looks out the window at an undisclosed location near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, November 8, 2017.

A 12 year old Rohingya girl who worked as domestic help in a house in Bangladesh, looks out the window at an undisclosed location near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

PAID A PITTANCE, IF AT ALL

Across Bangladesh’s refugee settlements, Reuters saw children wandering muddy lanes alone and aimlessly, or sitting listlessly outside tents. Many children begged along roadsides.

The Inter Sector Coordination Group, which oversees UN agencies and charities, said this month it had documented 2,462 unaccompanied and separated children in the camps. The actual number was “likely to be far higher”, it said.

A preliminary survey by the UNHCR and Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission has found that 5 percent of households – or 3,576 families – were headed by a child.

Reuters interviewed seven families who sent their children to work. All reported terrible working conditions, low wages or abuse.

Muhammad Zubair, dressed in a dirty football shirt, his small stature belying his stated age of 12 years old, said he was offered 250 taka per day but ended up with only 500 taka ($6) for 38 days work building roads. His mother said he was 14 years old.

“It was hard work, laying bricks on the road,” he said, squatting in the doorway of his mud hut in the Kutupalong camp. He said he was verbally abused by his employers when he asked for more money and was told to leave. He declined to provide their identities.

Zubair then took a job in a tea shop for a month, putting in two shifts per day from 6am to past midnight, broken by a four-hour rest period in the afternoon.

He said he wasn’t allowed to leave the shop and was only permitted to speak to his parents by phone once.

“When I wasn’t paid, I escaped,” he said. “I was frightened because I thought the owner, the master, would come here with other people and take me again.”

 

FORCED MARRIAGE

Many parents also pressure their daughters to marry early, for protection and for financial stability, according to the IOM findings. Some child brides are as young as 11, the IOM said.

But many women only became “second wives,” the IOM said. Second wives are frequently divorced quickly and “abandoned without any further economic support”.

Kateryna Ardanyan, an IOM anti-trafficking specialist, said exploitation had become “normalized” in the camps.

“Human traffickers usually adapt faster to the situation than any other response mechanism can. It’s very important we try to do prevention.” Ardanyan said.

“Funding dedicated to protecting Rohingya men, women and children from exploitation and abuse is urgently needed.”

 

(Reporting by Tom Allard and Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Philip McClellan)