Russian Muslim Sect Found After 10 Years Underground
Members of a Russian sect found living in an underground bunker with some 20 children, many of whom have never seen the sun, have been charged with child abuse last week.
The digging began about a decade ago and 70 followers of the sect moved into an eight-level subterranean residence of small cells with no light, heat or ventilation.
Children were born who also lived in the underground cells for many years - until authorities raided the compound last week and freed the 27 sons and daughters of the sect.
Ages 1 to 17, the children rarely saw the light of day and had never left the property, attended school or been seen by a doctor, officials said Wednesday. Their parents - sect members who call themselves "muammin," from the Arabic for "believers" - were charged with child abuse.
The sect's 83-year-old founder, Faizrakhman Satarov, who declared himself a prophet, was charged with negligence, said Irina Petrova, deputy prosecutor in the provincial capital of Kazan.
Satarov ordered his followers to live in cells they dug under a brick house. Only a few sect members were allowed to leave the premises to work as traders at a local market, Russian media reported.
The decrepit house on a 700-square-meter (7,530-square-foot) plot of land was built illegally and will be demolished, Tatarstan police said.
One cult member, Gumer Ganiyev, shouted at reporters gathering outside the property: "They (the authorities) decided to fight against Allah. They will not defeat Allah.
"We, the community of Allah, will cede not a single step. They will come here with bulldozers, with machine-guns.
"Only by stepping over our bodies may they destroy our rooms and liquidate our community."
The children were discovered when police searched the grounds as part of an investigation into the recent killing of a top Muslim cleric.