INSIDE LOOK: Sheriff combs through possible terrorist camp in east Alabama

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MACON COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) — Following the release of an FBI indictment suggesting the presence of an active terrorist compound in Alabama, local authorities are starting to take things into their own hands.

A crew from WRBL was granted exclusive access to the site located just off U.S. Highway 80, a few miles outside downtown Tuskegee, along Macon County Road 81.      

Macon County Sheriff Andre Brunson said over the past few weeks, reports of a possible terror training camp in Macon County surfaced, leading to several concerned residents calling him.

Brunson decided it was time for him to take a look at the property.

“We are going to walk back here,” he said. “We are off County Road 81, where there was talk about where this camp is. I want to see it for myself and what is going on. I’ve been getting a lot of calls about this camp. It’s unfortunate because the FBI didn’t let us know what was going on out here and these people are worried.”

The Macon County land is deeded to 40-year-old Siraj Wahhaj. In March, Wahhaj and four others were indicted for federal terrorism, firearm and kidnapping charges after agents say 11 malnourished children and the decomposing body Wahhaj’s young son were discovered at a New Mexico Compound. Agents said from October 2017 to August 2018 the defendants were training to carry out attacks to kill officers, including FBI agents.   

Back in Macon County, Brunson said the property looks similar to pictures from the New Mexico compound.

“It looks like they were getting ready or trying to be self-sufficient back here,” he said

Brunson saw piles of scattered toys along the property, indicating children had been there.  A large rain barrel sits near a fenced off garbage pile, across from a makeshift housing structure made of wood pallets, covered with plastic sheeting.

“Looks like some type of living quarters, some type of structure made by 2X4’s and wood pallets with plastic on the top and the walls to keep water out some type of living quarters, with chairs toys and dishes other things in here,” Brunson said. 

According to the deed, the two-acre parcel along Macon County 81 also known as Shady Grove was sold to Wahhaj back in May of 2014.  Court documents indicate Wajajh was in Alabama in December of 2017 when Alabama troopers worked an Interstate 65 crash involving Wajajh, another adult and five children. The trooper noted five firearms, a bulletproof vest, and ammunition in the vehicle. Wahhaj allegedly told the trooper they were going camping in New Mexico, according to the documents.

“We were surprised, in terms of we don’t think about terror being in Alabama, much less in Tuskegee,” Tuskegee Mayor Tony Haygood said.

The mayor believes the FBI searched the Macon County site a few years ago, and the information is just now surfacing because of the recent indictments.  Haygood said based on the information he has, he believes the Macon County site was used as a hideout and for light training.

“I don’t think any heavy training or firearms or weapons activity was going on out there,” he said. 

Brunson said knowing the remains of a boy were found on the New Mexico compound where other kids were allegedly living in squalor makes him worry that kids were living in horrific conditions here in Macon County. 

“Man, it breaks my heart to know kids might have been out here doing that,” he said. “We just don’t know, but we’re going to find out. We’re going to get to the bottom of this. I want everyone in Macon County to know right now, nothing is going on. I don’t think there is anything to be alarmed about, but if there is one here, there could be one somewhere else.”

Brunson and Haygood want to be clear; they do not believe anyone is living on the property now, and it appears the makeshift camp has been abandoned for some time. Sheriff Brunson says he is reaching out to the FBI for more information, hoping the FBI will be more forthcoming than they have been.

News 3 will keep you updated on this developing story.

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