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. jez

    Aaaaah! Islam – the religion of peace and sanity!

    August 11, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. lyrker

    Imagine being born and growing up in a dark warren like that. Mole people. Sounds like something out of The Time Machine.

    August 11, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • fritz

      Hey, who are you to question 800,000 years of evoluton? ;op

      August 11, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. fritz

    Interesting., even the Muslims have their 'Jim Jones' types. Why be surprised? This is how all religions eventually rear their ugly heads.

    August 11, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer

      I don't think Jones is your best example of a religious cult - many others are, don't get me wrong; just not really his. His cult undoubtedly began as a church and it used religion to grow, but it showed its true colors within years, with even Jones 'preaching' there was no God. Even while at the Peoples Temple, many followers were atheists. They were there because they liked the social outreach aspect of it. And it ended with them saying they were dying – and would kill – in the name of 'communistic socialism' – not in the name of God. Having said all that, your point is well taken.

      August 11, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • gatornuts

      And how does atheism eventually rear its head?

      August 11, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenkins

      No, this is how humanity rears its ugly head. Religion is not a requirement for unacceptable and criminal behavior, though most atheists would have you believe so. Weak argument. PLENTY of atrocities have occurred in the name of science, nationalism, or simply in the name of self-centered egotism of the individual. Religion is not the problem. The people twisting the religion are the problem.

      August 13, 2012 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
    • New Gawker

      I think all Mulsims are jim jones types. They have an endless supply of suicide bombers.

      August 16, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. goby

    Religion is a mental illness.

    August 11, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • LA

      No Goby, simple people like you have mental illness. You comprehension level makes it pretty obvious.

      August 22, 2012 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  5. truthordare7

    Who declares himself the caliphate? Well, who declares himself the prophet after somebody in his delusion choked him twice.

    August 11, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. umm wat?

    why are these people called isalmists. Hey guys I am the son of jesus christ , now go ahead and relate me to Christianity.

    August 12, 2012 at 5:45 am | Report abuse |
  7. Pnm9pnm

    This do,s not look like the Putin we all no?pnm.

    August 12, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  8. YaValioCacaWates

    There's some serious nut cases in Russia! Wow.

    August 12, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. danielwalldammit

    damned awful to hear stuff like this.

    August 12, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. truth seeker

    Sounds like Yisrayl Hawkins down in Clyde, Texas. he is 78 and is a mind control cult leader. themanbehindthename website exposes this cult leader

    August 12, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. psychicstalker

    I notice they are not saying anymore about the 17 year old female that was pregnant, how far along she was in the pregnancy, whether she was married to anyone in the sect.

    August 12, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. hemusbull

    Again the peaceful religion...

    August 12, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sergey

      About three years ago, some Christian cult holed itself underground on Volga river preparing for the world end. After few weeks they were forcibly removed.

      August 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Missing Link

    There is no worse child abuse than forcing religion on some poor child that is not allowed to say no.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:31 am | Report abuse |
    • LA

      Baloney. You force your culture and ideas on your kid, but unless you mistreat them it's no more abuse than anything else. This has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with a crazy man.

      August 22, 2012 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
  14. Anton

    The absolute acceptance of religion is as dangerous as the absolute rejection of it.
    The only absolutely certain thing in life is that nothing is absolutely certain.

    Quit abusing your children by shoving ideas into their heads. You DO NOT know there's a god in heaven anymore than your neighbor knows there isn't one.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Pnm9pnm

    Def.of prophet in this cass in a life4m that's miss uses equitment to see n hear throwe time in his fuecher life.pnm.

    August 29, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
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