Canadian child protective services intend to seek the removal of all 127 children from the fringe ultra-Orthodox Lev Tahor group, often referred to as the "Jewish Taliban," several local media outlets reported Thursday.
A Canadian court earlier this month ordered the fringe sect to turn over as many as 13 of its children to authorities. But those children, along with several adult members of the community, fled the country to the Caribbean and Central America to avoid a court hearing that was scheduled for Wednesday, Global News Online reported.
Canadian authorities have been working with officials in Guatemala and Trinidad to secure the children's return.
Meanwhile, Denis Baraby, the director of Quebec's Department of Youth Protection for the Laurentians region, said he's concerned the rest of the group is "preparing a mass move."
"If we want to protect the children that are in the community, we need to start working on the exit of the 114 other children," Baraby told the Montreal Gazette, adding that authorities need to act fast.
"We don't want them all to leave in the middle of the night to go to Guatemala," he told the Gazette. "It will be a bit late to act at that point."
Court and police documents pertaining to the sect reveal allegations of severe child abuse, including confinement and drugging, sexual abuse, psychological control and underage marriage.
Lev Tahor members have tried to escape justice before: Some 200 members fled Quebec in November, just before the execution of a court order to remove the 14 children and place them in foster care.
The community settled in rural Ontario, where earlier this month a judge upheld the Quebec order, excluding one of the children, a 17-year-old mother originally included in the court order, who is now considered an adult under Ontario law, according to the Canada Star. However, he stayed the ruling for 30 days to allow time for an appeal, which is expected.
Quebec police began hearing allegations against the community in April 2012.
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