Coming up

Don't miss




Coverage of the third plane crash in one week - from France, Algeria and Burkina Faso

Read more


Coverage of the plane crash that took 116 lives - almost half of them French

Read more


Gaza: A Truce At All Costs?

Read more


Central African Republic: Brazzaville ceasefire talks deliver fragile deal

Read more


Sluggish tourist season in Crimea

Read more


Bartabas : Mixing Christ with Spanish music and dancing horses

Read more


Shifts in the propaganda war waged between Israelis and Palestinians

Read more


French MPs face quandary in pro-Palestinian rallies

Read more


Yezid Sayigh, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut

Read more

  • Live: ‘No survivors’ from Algerian plane crash, says Hollande

    Read more

  • Protest against Gaza offensive turns deadly in West Bank

    Read more

  • Wreckage of Algeria plane found in Mali

    Read more

  • Deadly strike on UN shelter in Gaza Strip

    Read more

  • BNP to pay $80 million for defrauding Dept of Agriculture

    Read more

  • Pope meets Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan

    Read more

  • Air Algérie crash: 'We should eliminate the missile hypothesis'

    Read more

  • Italy’s Nibali cruises to victory in 18th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Iraqi parliament elects moderate Kurd as president

    Read more

  • US, European agencies lift travel restrictions to Tel Aviv

    Read more

  • No end to fighting until Israel ends Gaza blockade, Hamas says

    Read more

  • Two foreign women shot dead in western Afghanistan

    Read more

  • At least 60 killed in attack on prison convoy near Baghdad

    Read more


Children freed from Muslim sect's underground bunker

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-08-09

At least 15 children were freed by Russian authorities after having been held for years in an underground bunker by a Muslim sect in Kazan in eastern Tartarstan. Some 60 members of the group had lived for more than 10 years below a mosque.

AFP - Russian police have freed more than a dozen children held for years in underground isolation by a Muslim sect in Kazan, in the eastern republic of Tartarstan, the interior ministry said.

Some 60 members of a religious group, followers of a local spiritual leader, had lived for more than a decade in a bunker below a mosque in the city, the police said.

At least 15 children who were part of the group had been forced to live in squalid conditions with no access to the outside world.

The bunker was discovered in police searches of Islamic organisations in the city following twin attacks last month on moderate clerics by suspected Islamists.

Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov said in a statement that 19 children, most aged under six and including three babies, had been rehoused in shelters following the raid.

And the same statement quoted members of the sect as saying there may be as many as 27 children.

A police video of the raid shown to reporters showed bearded male residents shouting as investigators forced their way inside the two-storey building. Women wearing headscarves were shown carrying young children, including babies, up a long flight of stairs from underground.

"Take these children to a bus," a helmeted police officer can be heard shouting.

Police investigator Ranis Bakhitov said the children were "living in unsanitary conditions. There is a lack of ventilation. The premises are like monks' cells."

"Based on the evidence of police officers, all the children require medical attention."

"During the search we found that the building was two-storey. Below it was a cellar where we found people were living," said Bakhitov in the video released by the local interior ministry.

"The space was built as a labyrinth. There are rooms measuring two by three metres," (six feet by 10), he said.

The police said they had established that around 60 people were living in the underground quarters.

Faizrakhman Satarov, identified as the group's 85-year-old leader, had declared himself a prophet in 1964, the interior ministry said.

In 1996, Satarov acquired land for an Islamic school and built living quarters on the land where "gradually all the members of the sect moved to live permanently," police said.

"Faizrakhman's supporters lead a closed way of life, not leaving their shelter without extreme necessity," the ministry said.

"The children of the commune grew up in the same conditions. They did not go to educational and medical institutions, which is the most severe breach of children's rights."

Police said they had opened a criminal case against Satarov for his "arbitrariness" in running the compound, a crime that carries a prison term of up to six months.

They also opened separate investigations into members' suspected meglect and cruel treatment of their children, carrying a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

The case echoes that of a 35-member Doomsday sect that holed up in an underground cave in a region southeast of Moscow in 2007, only emerging after the end of the world failed to materialise.

The July 19 attacks that sparked the search targeted Tatarstan's chief Muslim cleric, Ildus Faizov, who survived a car bombing, while his one-time deputy was killed in a shooting.

A militant this month claimed the attack in a video posted online.

The semi-Muslim republic is often held up as an example of religious tolerance with a huge mosque standing beside an Orthodox cathedral in Kazan, the capital.

Date created : 2012-08-09