Inside the central Qol Sharif mosque in Kazan, Tatarstan, near where the Fayzarahmanist sect was discovered last week
Photo by Dmitry Kostyukov/AFP/Getty Images.
Some rather bizarre news courtesy of Russian-state media: Roughly 70 members of an Islamist sect have been found living in an eight-story underground bunker, where they are believed to have resided for the past decade without artificial heat or natural sunlight.
Reports of the exact number of children who were among the group vary from 19 to 27, at least some of which appear to have been born in the bunker and had never left until they were found by authorities earlier this month. Reuters reports that the sect's leaders will likely face charges in the wake of the discovery.
BBC News explains that the sect's leader, Fayzarahman Sattarov, is a former deputy to a Sunni Islam cleric, and declared himself a Muslim prophet in the late 1960s after interpreting sparks from a trolley cable as a message from God.
Some 70 people lived in the catacomb-like bunker, comprised of eight stories of cramped cells and built under a decrepit brick house in the Tatarstan. Sattarov could spend up to six months in prison for violating local building laws with the illegal structure. He faces a charge of "arbitrariness," which refers to his implementation of rules that contradicted Russian law.
After the bunker was discovered on August 1, authorities placed the children either in care or in the hospital. According to Bloomberg, it has not yet been decided whether they will return to their parents or be put in foster care. Satarov and three others are being investigated for cruelty against children.
Police discovered the sect as part of an investigation of recent attacks against Muslim leaders in the region. The Fayzarahmanists, named for their 83-year-old leader, are divorced from traditional Islam, which is dominant in this region of Russia.