6 Apr 2008

Tensions rise as police raid Texas polygamist compound

CBC News - April 5, 2008

A standoff is brewing at a West Texas compound linked to jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs Saturday, a day after authorities removed dozens of girls and women from the ranch.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints compound is shown under construction near Eldorado, Texas, in 2005. (Donna McWilliam/Associated Press)

Sect leaders have refused to let officials search a temple on the compound in Eldorado for a teenage girl whose reports of abuse led to the raid on Friday. Tom Green County prosecutor Allison Palmer said unless an agreement is reached, authorities will forcibly remove the sect's followers.

Troopers have a search warrant authorizing them to look for evidence of a marriage between a teenaged girl and a 50-year-old man. Court documents indicate the girl had a baby eight months ago when she was 15.

Ambulances are being sent to the scene in case of violence, Palmer said.

"Within the religion that we have encountered, their place of worship is very special to them," she said. "It appears to be of great concern to them if a person from outside their congregation even attempts to step inside their place of worship."

Authorities on Friday removed 183 girls and women from the retreat, operated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The breakaway polygamist group was run by imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs until last year when he was sentenced to life in prison for arranging a marriage between an underaged girl and her first cousin.

Texas Game Wardens take up positions Friday outside the YFZ Ranch compound near Eldorado, Texas. They were backing up police who served search and arrest warrants. (Brian Connelly/Associated Press)

Texas Child Protective Services said 137 girls and 46 women were removed, but wouldn't say why, said Reuters. Local reports said they were removed by buses and vans and were being housed temporarily in churches and government buildings.

Eldorado is about 325 kilometres northwest of San Antonio and has a population of about 2,000.

With files from the Associated Press

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