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U.S. authorities have removed 401 children and 133 women
U.S. authorities have removed 401 children and 133 women from a ranch owned by a polygamist sect in Texas, national media reported on Tuesday.

Authorities began raiding the compound on Friday following a phone call from a 16-year-old girl who said she had been forced into marriage with a 50 year-old man. She also reported multiple cases of forced marriages and child abuse in the sect.

"In my opinion, this is the largest endeavor we've ever been involved with in the state of Texas," Child Protective Services spokeswoman Marleigh Meisne told Dallas News. "This is not about numbers. This is about children who are at imminent risk of harm, children we believe have been abused or neglected."

An unknown number of male sect members are still being held by police inside the compound belonging to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, some 260 km (160 miles) northwest of San-Antonio.

The girl who made the initial phone remains unaccounted for, as do a number of children from the sect.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints split from the Mormon church when the latter disavowed polygamy over a century ago. Its leader, Warren Jeffs, is currently in a Utah jail after being convicted as an accomplice to the rape of a 14-year-old girl who was forced to marry her cousin. He is also due to stand trial for the sexual abuse of minors and incest.

The sect members believe that a man must have at least three wives to go to heaven. Women's road to paradise depends on how subservient they are to their husbands.

A previous raid by Texan authorities on the compound of a sect suspected of child abuse in Waco in 1993 ended with 90 deaths following a month and a half long siege. Texan law enforcement agencies were heavily criticized for their heavy-handed approach to the situation. 21 children were burnt alive as the compound burnt to the ground during the raid.


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