August 9th, 2012
12:27 PM ET

Police free Russian cult kids who reportedly never saw sun

At least 57 members of an Islamist sect, including children, have been discovered living underground in the Republic of Tatarstan, according to Russian police.

Many of them have never even seen the sun, authorities said.

The sect members, which includes at least 19 children ages 1 to 17, were freed. They were found August 1 during a police raid performed as part of an ongoing investigation into militant groups in Tatarstan. The bunker, which appeared to be made of decrepit concrete blocks, has multiple levels below ground with tight-quartered cells that have no light, ventilation or heat.

The leader of the sect is reportedly Fayzrahman Satarov, an 83-year-old who pronounced himself a prophet destined to direct a caliphate, according to a report by Russia state TV channel Vesti.

Amid chants of defiance, police detained Satarov and some other members, and they are facing charges.

Russian media reports say his followers lived in isolation, refusing to recognize Russian laws or the authority of mainstream Muslim leaders in Tatastan.

The bunker is located near the city of Kazan in Tatarstan, about 500 miles from Moscow.

Tatarstan is majority Muslim and oil rich.

Shireen T. Hunter is a noted scholar on Islam and Russia, and is the director of the Carnegie Project on Reformist Islam at Georgetown University. She has visited Tatarstan and Kazan several times to do research.

It's important, she said, to keep in mind that little is known about the group and simply because the leader identifies himself as Islamist, there should not be immediate connections drawn between the group and Islam in the area as a whole.

"This could just be some 83-year-old who wants to control people," she said. "This may have nothing at all to do with radical or extreme Islam as we understand it. This man - creating a caliphate? How is he going to do that? This just doesn't seem like the modis operandi of a serious radical cell bent on challenging the government."

Kazan is a pleasant city with coffee and clothing shops, Hunter said.  Some women wear hijabs, others don't. Some women work and other choose not to, she said. In recent years, many people have bought villas and other housing in Kazan.

It's conceivable to her that a group could live underground and go unnoticed for years.

"If I decided to live underground in Washington, D.C., I could do that, and so could other people," she said.

Health worker Tatiana Moroz told CNN that the children are in "satisfactory condition" and that they have been fed. Some were sent to the hospital for care.

"Upon receipt from the building, the children were in satisfactory condition," she said. "The children were all fed, although they were dirty. Upon receiving them, we washed them. They have undergone a full examination - all the Russian specialists have examined them, and taken all the analyses. [Friday] the full analyses will be finished and we will give our final conclusion about the condition of their health."

CNN's Matthew Chance contributed to this report.

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soundoff (230 Responses)
  1. saywhat

    There are currently 38000 sects and denominations in contemporary Christianity. Some with most extreme and bizarre beliefs like World Wide Church of God, Koreshanity, Unification Church, Makuya Church, Church of Euthanasia and so on.
    In Judaism there are sects like Nation of Yahweh. And I'm sure there are extreme and bizarre sects in other major religions like Hinduism.
    So why is this news?

    August 9, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • dsavio

      Police just discovered a bunch of kids being held in a dungeon and you're asking why is it news? What?

      August 9, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Solitaire

      It would be news if one child had never been out to see the sun. This is a large group of people who have been kept below ground, with not a glimpse of the outside world. I think it's pretty interesting!

      August 9, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. hidden powers

    how is this called islam if islam said the last prophet is the prophet of islam. That is like someone coming right now and saying I am jesus's son and he sent me. Then people relate that guy and say, that is a Christianity sect.

    August 9, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. FifthApe

    Religions (all) are a virus of the mind. Just read the bible, these people here are just as kooky.

    August 9, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • VoiceOf Truth


      August 9, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Yawnfest

    Seems to me that the 83-year old's alignment to Islam is likely as reliable as any cult's claim of being aligned to 'proper' religious sects. I hope they do well by these children – though I suspect a fair amount will be broken by the underground upbringing.

    August 9, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Nuno

    I believe in God but I would BAN all religions from the face of the earth ! The are all a bunch of fanatic animals

    August 9, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      If you believe in God, then you just validated a religion, so how would you ban all religions?

      August 9, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Darw1n


    August 9, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • BigMike I'm hungry ..think ill fry up some taters.

      August 9, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tan

    If he claims to be a Prophet he is not a Muslim then...............

    August 9, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • OJ

      True, since Mohammad PUH was the last prohpet.

      August 9, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. toonah

    The sun is way overrated. I hate it.

    August 9, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. chrissy

    lmao @ little mister, you WISH! And this story is disgusting! No wonder Russia doesnt want reform in Syria, they have little regard for children specifically and people in general!

    August 9, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Solitaire

    Just another glaring example of the use of religion to justify controlling the lives of other people. That so EASY! It's no wonder that the I-speak-for-God role attracts some unsavory characters.

    August 9, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. asdf

    Hmm what do expect of a religion whose prophet and founder's former profession was caravan raider?

    August 9, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • saywhat

      You do seem to be an scholar on Prophet of Islam like so many of us? lol

      August 9, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Atheos1

    People created religion, religion created mole people.

    August 9, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. saywhat

    My post in response to a valid point raised by @ dsavio is not getting thru.
    Hello @Obama Mama

    August 9, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mom of Three

    Way to go, Religion of Peace!!!

    August 9, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. halfbakedlunatic

    Good people will do good things. Evil people will do evil things. But to get an good person to do evil things usually requires some form of religion.

    August 9, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • ann

      @halfbakedlunatic I disagree. It could easily be any organized group of people that could accomplish this under the right conditions. Anytime you have someone who is persuasive enough to say that the ends justify the means you can get a similar result. I could name off half a dozen non religious groups that could fall into that category.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
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