SHOCKING RULING: Judge Releases NM Extremists

Map showing Islamist compound in New Mexico

In a shocking ruling, a judge released four of the five adults arrested from the Islamic extremist compound in New Mexico that was raided last week.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, the father of the disabled boy who died from being denied his medication, is the only one still being held because he faces an additional charge since he was a fugitive.

Judge Sarah Backus ruled the prosecutors failed to prove the four individuals would pose a direct threat to the community and thus they did not need to be held until trial.

She released them to house arrest and on a $20,000 "signature bond," which means they just have to sign a document promising to return to court when it is time for trial. If they do not show up to court, they will face arrest and be required to pay $20,000 as a penalty.

All five suspects – Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, Hujrah Wahhaj, Subhannah Wahhaj, Lucas “Luqman” Morton and Jany Leveille—have been charged with 11 counts of child abuse. Siraj Ibn Wahhaj has an additional charge of being a fugitive due to an arrest warrant in Georgia. Morton was also charged with one count of harboring a fugitive for refusing to tell police where Siraj was.

Backus ruled they must reside in acceptable living conditions, wear ankle monitors at all times, cannot have firearms, cannot leave the country and can only see their children if they are supervised.

Law enforcement sources in New Mexico who spoke to Clarion Intelligence Network were shocked and dismayed, wondering out loud what it would have taken for the judge to see the threat that they pose.

There have been many times where criminals have been on house arrest with the same exact charges as the compound residents and have cut off their ankle monitors and escaped for years, one source explained. They emphasized that house arrest does not eliminate the threat.

A Muslim source, who has closely followed the situation with the Wahhaj family for months, was similarly shocked, especially the release of Jany Leveille, the second wife of Siraj Ibn Wahhaj.

“Jany Leveille, who they called ‘Maryam,’ was the ringleader of this cult. You could argue she’s the most dangerous one,” he said.

Even More Details from the Prosecutors

What makes the release of the cult members even more baffling is that the prosecutors’ case for holding the suspects, based on the facts of the case alone, was solid.

“The evidence as a whole says this family was on a mission, and a violent one,” said prosecutor Tim Hassan.

Prosecutors released even more evidence into the proceeding to illustrate the threat posed by letting these individuals out of jail.

  • One of the suspects wrote a letter to his brother telling him to move to the compound and die as a “martyr” (meaning in violent combat)
  • One of the children was found holding a gun. He said Siraj Ibn Wahhaj had told him to hold it and prepare to fire it during the raid. Others were holding boxes of ammunition. The boys did not open fire because Siraj Ibn Wahhaj told them to stand down
  • As reported earlier, at least one of the children was trained to carry out a school shooting
  • Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, the deceased 3-year-old disabled boy, died from being denied his medication and lost his life during an Islamic prayer session to expel the demons they believed were inside him. The children said the boy choked and foamed at the mouth during these sessions and died in February
  • An FBI agent testified that one of the children said they believed the deceased boy would resurrect as Jesus in about four months and then inform the compound residents of their specific targets. He mentioned law enforcement personnel, educational institutions, financial institutions and banks as potential targets
  • One of the women believed Abdul-Ghani was meant to be her child but was stolen from her by his mother using black magic. She claimed to be receiving messages from the Angel Gabriel
  • The children were being trained to kill teachers, members of law enforcement and other people associated with “corrupt” institutions they were told should be overthrown. They learned how to fire and speed-load guns, clear rooms and were schooled in various forms of tactical training. They were originally told it was for defending the compound. The kids were also taught to preach their ideology to others and to kidnap or murder those who rejected it
  • A book at the compound taught how to make an AR-style gun untraceable
  • Siraj Ibn Wahhaj took multiple firearms classes at the Atlanta Firearms Training Center in Georgia in 2015. He also took a mysterious trip to Saudi Arabia in 2017. He told his wife that he was ending their marriage upon his return
  • The guns at the compound included an AR-15, a pistol, a .308 sniper rifle, a 30/30 and a glock
  • Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said all five adults are refusing to cooperate with police
  • Although Lucas Morton did not open fire at law enforcement officials during the raid, he was "struggling" and "resisting" while being apprehended

How the Defense Defeated Common Sense

As is to be expected, the defense attorney for the five arrested extremists claimed they were the victims of discrimination against Muslims and blacks, arguing they may not have been arrested if they were white Christians.

The defense’s main argument was that there was no strong evidence of a specific terrorist plot, only aspirations. And somehow, that worked. The judge agreed that because the prosecutors could not lay out an actual plan, the threat wasn’t as high as they claimed. She also mentioned the defendants did not have a criminal history.

The lawyer also argued the fact that their guns were obtained legally, were found easily and not used to resist arrest shows they are not a threat to the community.

The defense also pointed out that Subhannah Wahhaj is seven months pregnant and there was no specific evidence linking her to violent activity. It was also argued that at least some of the women moved to New Mexico because of an unspecified threat to their safety. 

Conclusion

Four radical Islamic extremists—ones so radical that a typical radical describes them as an extremist cult—were released and now will be living among the residents of New Mexico.

As law enforcement personnel told us, the restrictions placed on them during house arrest are surmountable barriers, especially for jihadis willing to die for the cause and/or for someone who wants to avoid inevitable prison time.

Yes, the defendants will be monitored and intelligence will be gathered on them. But the defendants know this and have, in all probability, studied how to get around it.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj may very well have learned these techniques through his security company in Georgia or through his father’s Islamist network.

While on house arrest, the defendants can communicate with one another and with others. They can have visitors. That means they can plan future action or even potentially escape. It is unlikely the authorities will have eyes inside their homes watching their movements, listening to their every word.

If this episode teaches us anything, it’s that the authorities are probably able to do much less than whatever you’re assuming.

In this, as in many cases, action obviously needed does not take place. Law enforcement authorities are either handcuffed by legal restrictions, bogged down by bureaucratic procedures, hampered by flaws in the system, deterred by political correctness, simply incompetent or lack resources. These factors don’t even account for the inevitable human error that happens in all complex operations.

Islamist extremists in America are watching this development, likely cheering the bewildering decision of this judge and encouraged by the weaknesses on display by the “Great Satan.”

Al-Qaeda Links

The New Mexico compound where cultish Islamist extremists were found; inset: American imam and al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki (Photo: Clarion Project)
The New Mexico compound where cultish Islamist extremists were found; inset: American imam and al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki (Photo: Clarion Project)

At least one of the women at the Islamist cult compound in New Mexico had links to al-Qaeda in that she was a big fan of al-Qaeda terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, according to a public account from a Muslim activist and reports from sources who spoke to Clarion Project’s Clarion Intelligence Network.

One woman also reportedly claimed to be the mahdi, a figure in Islamic end times prophecy who is supposed to join forces with Jesus to win a final apocalyptic war that ends with global Islamic rule.

Take a look at the accused and inside the compound:

Anwar al-Awlaki was an American imam who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011. He became al-Qaeda’s biggest recruiter because of his English-language, digital magazine Inspire that provided instructions used for carrying out terrorist attacks like the Boston Marathon bombing, among other items of “inspiration.”

One source recalled seeing Imam Siraj Wahhaj, whose children and family members resided at the New Mexico compound, preach at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Virginia when it was run by Anwar al-Awlaki.

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Ryan Mauro
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org's Shillman Fellow, national security analyst and the director of Clarion Intelligence Network. Mauro is also an adjunct professor of counter-terrorism. He is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio.

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