FOUR hundred children have been removed from a remote ranch owned by a polygamist Mormon sect, amid allegations of abuse of a 16-year-old girl living on the compound.
The children, in 19th-century dresses, were bussed out of the remote Yearn For Zion (YFZ) ranch after a raid on the breakaway Mormon sect of Warren Jeffs, the jailed polygamist leader. Many of the sect view the outside world as evil and have never encountered modern toys or food.
Helen Pfluger, a volunteer at a local Baptist church who helped to care for the children said: "They know nothing of the outside world. They are like aliens -- or we are like aliens to them. The children and their mothers did not know what to do with crayons.
"Our food makes them sick because they are not used to processed food.
"It was like talking to people from 1870. Their clothing needs were the most difficult to fulfil. They need a dress for a four-year-old. They specified the dress should be long down to the ankles, have long arms, a loose waist, and be a solid colour in a pastel shade. I don't think there is a place in Texas you can get a dress like that."
Authorities raided the remote 1,700 acre compound on Saturday after a teenage mother called a hotline to complain she had been abused. The 16-year-old girl, who has an eight-month-old daughter, was 15 when she allegedly married sect member Dale Barlow (50).
In 2005, Texas raised the legal age limit for a girl to marry from 14 to 16 in response to concern about the sect.
The 10,000-strong Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints broke away from the Mormon Church in the 1930s after Mormon leaders outlawed polygamy.
Concentrated along the Utah-Arizona border, the sect bought a ranch outside Eldorado, Texas, in 2003 and built a four-storey temple and a small town on the site that is now the YFZ ranch. The operation that began on Thursday was the largest since the Short Creek raid on the sect in 1953, when 400 fundamentalists, including 236 children, were taken into custody. (© The Times, London).