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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Filed under: Russia
soundoff (230 Responses)
  1. saywhat

    @Mom of Three
    Sure child abuse, incarceration, exploitation in the name of faith and even more heinous crimes are limited to muslims.
    In this case this man claimed to be a prophet unto himself. Nothing to do with Islam. More of a cult.

    August 9, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. saywhat

    @Mom of Three
    How would you rate a religion where priests sodomize young kids in places of worship?

    August 9, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • pekpek

      why not? that is the only way you can beat Bin Ladin's 75 virgins...

      August 9, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      I would rate it a half notch above a religion that encourages global terrorism, honor killings of one's own children, and daily random acts of violence against civilians.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • ryan

      At least our country didn't have t.he lunatic this time

      August 9, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • NativeUSA

      You mean all relgions it has happened in all. If you mean catholics, microcasm of sociiety and mankind, preditors in society perhaps you do not expect it in a religious setting but sinners exist everywhere and catholics have the unfortunate luck of being the largest Christian faith there fore more chances for one bad apple in thousands because there are thousands of priests. The steps they took to rid themselves of bad priests I think is now responsible previously they were avoiding litigation like all organizations do and that was wrong but they have corrected themselves and must stay vigilant. I know many incredibly honorable giving Christian priests who do walk in the footsteps of Christ painting them with the same brush as one evil person is also not right. HUGE charity work is done feeding clothing hundreds of thousands, no other faith has the monetary sources or manpower by comparison........

      August 9, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. fredd

    I don't think Tartarstan is a country. This is a joke.

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

      I think my dentist used to threaten to send me there.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • NutGrinder

      "Republic of Tatarstan, according to Russian police." its a Russian state.
      Your comment is like saying "California is not a country so this article is BS"! derp.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      Tatarstan isn't a country, it's a region in Russia. Also, I wouldn't say that it's majority Muslim – just as many people that live there are Russian Orthodox.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • johann

      the Republic of Tartarstan is a part of Russia. Russia is different then USA in that it has multiple types of local governments, each with their own levels of autonomy. the U.S uses states and Russia uses republics, oblasts, etc...

      August 9, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      Tatarstan is a region in Russia. The artical does not claim it is a country.

      August 9, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Name*Lance D.

    Religion is for people who can not think for themselves, nor can they make it on there own. I believe in what I believe, not what everybody else is doing. Every time we read a story such as this one it just goes to show how religion is cover for controlling people who constantly need there hand held.

    August 9, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hez316

      Our president is a professing Christian. Vp is a professing Catholic. Just keep going down the list if you wish

      August 9, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • BC

      No woman worth her while will ever be with you because you lack faith. I have never even met you, but I can safely say that woman problems have been a large problem for you. A man without faith will never taste success.

      August 9, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. NutGrinder

    AND another argument against religion. This is ALWAYS what it turns into. Another nail in the coffin of the mortally wounded mysticism and ignorance! DIE RELIGION DIE!

    August 9, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • cjpi

      Ironically, the bible itself prophecies in the book of Revelation that god himself will put it into the hearts of the Governments to destroy all religion off the earth.

      August 9, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keith

      cjpi – Revelations was written by a man that hated Christians. What you need to ask yourself is why did the Catholic Church include that book in the Bible?

      August 9, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jim Weix

    Oh gee...another example of how good man-made and created religion works.
    No Higher Power, whatever you wish to call him or her or it, ever created a religion. Jesus did not create the Catholic Church, etc.
    These things were all created by man, mostly for power and money.

    August 9, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Meh

    Just religious folk going about their usual. Nothing shocking here.

    August 9, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. pekpek

    why not, that is the only way you can beat Bin Ladin's 75 virginss...

    August 9, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Religion HA HA HA

    Religion is a joke... lemmings & more lemmings. Everybody's God is the best and the true creator. How can so many millions of people be so wrong... and they are constantly fighting... small minded individuals. Open your eyes people.

    August 9, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • BombNotHere

      I guess not everyone is as loving and considerate as you are.

      August 9, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. DDM

    Muslim moles?

    August 9, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JEsus

    Sounds like a sweet reality show.

    August 9, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. redone

    Hey, did they find Wallenberg while they were down there?

    August 9, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Me

    "This could just be some 83-year-old who wants to control people" ... how is that any different from a typical religious leader from any religion? Islam, Mormonism, Catholicism, etc...

    August 9, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Deb

    I would think that some of the adults who decide to follow strange people into a cult would at least take the time and bother to really investigate them. Those in the first century who followed Christ, at least they saw him perform miracles and feed people miraculously and give sight to the blind and calm the seas and raise the dead. Even the Apostle said to those learning the truth for the first time, put what we teach to the test. Study the Holy Scriptures, the Torah at the time. Why do people insist on not following their common sense and guts. I guess when you really don't have the truth you are easily persuaded to follow any crazy idiot who comes along. Very, very sad for those children. They had no choice but to put trust in their blind parents. Thank goodness they saved them from that horrible situation.

    August 9, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jen

    not TAR TAR STAN
    not TA TA STAN

    August 9, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
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