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05 Apr 2008 11:50
United States authorities removed 52 girls from a polygamous sect’s compound in western Texas on Friday, and questioned the remaining members of the breakaway Mormon church, officials said.
Those removed were aged from six months to 17 years old, according to the Child Protective Services (CPS) in Schleicher County.
The girls were being held at an undisclosed location in San Angelo, north of the compound, officials said.
“The caseworkers need to have an opportunity to assess their needs and try to find out what the appropriate action will be,” said CPS spokesperson Patrick Crimmins.
According to the Houston Chronicle, social workers spent Thursday night and Friday questioning people living at the complex and determined that 18 of the girls had been abused or were at immediate risk of future abuse.
The girls lived at the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado, owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), led by Warren Jeffs, an avowed polygamist who is now serving time in jail.
Jeffs, who was considered to be their prophet, was arrested near Las Vegas in 2006 and sentenced to life in jail for being an accomplice to rape. He also faces federal charges in Arizona and Utah.
The sprawling Texas ranch was bought by the sect in 2003 and was kept under surveillance by the authorities.
The mainstream Mormon church—the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—renounced polygamy more than one century ago as a price of Utah’s admission to the United States.
It now excommunicates members who engage in the practice and disavows any connection with the FLDS church, which is based in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, twin-towns located on the Utah-Arizona state line.—AFP
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