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Russian Muslim Sect Found Living 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.
Authorities said the Islamist cult had existed for nearly a decade without natural light or heating in their subterranean dwelling.
The expansive man-made cave was discovered underneath a brick building on the outskirts of the central city of Kazan.
Only a few of the 70 sect members were allowed to leave the property to work as traders at a local market, Russian media reported.
Deputy prosecutor Irina Petrova told journalists the bunker's rooms were like "cells", lacking sunlight and ventilation.
"According to the agency for control of public facilities, there are eight levels of rooms, where not only children but adults live as well," she said.
The group was identified as the Fayzarahmanist sect, named after its 83-year-old organiser Fayzrahman Satarov, who declared himself a prophet and his house an independent Islamic state.
Ms Petrova added Satarov had been charged with negligence.
Many of the cult's children, aged between 18 months and 17 years old, were born underground and had never seen daylight until officials sent them for health checks.
One 17-year-old girl was reported to be pregnant.
Doctor Tatyana Moroz, head of a local children's hospital, said the youngsters were all in a "satisfactory" condition.
"All the children had been fed, but they were dirty. Upon their arrival here they were washed... [and] they had a full medical check-up," she said.
The children will be cared for at an orphanage after they are discharged from hospital, Dr Moroz added.
The decrepit house above the bunker on a 700-square-metre (7,530-square-foot) plot of land was built illegally and will be demolished, 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.
The attack was blamed on radical Islamist groups that have mushroomed in the oil-rich, Volga River province of Tatarstan.