KAZAN, RUSSIA - The harsh living conditions for dozens of Islamist sect members found living in an underground bunker in Russia are being described as crammed, dark and cold.
They'd been hidden away for about ten years.
The basement bunker was found on the outskirts of the city of Kazan. Among the group were 27 children who went without outside contact, healthcare and even sunlight.
They lived with more than 30 adults in catacomb-like cells in what's described as an eight level underground bunker. Some of the children had never left the compound, or even seen the light of day.
"The premises consists of cells without natural light and ventilation located in the basement and foundation and dug into the ground," said Irina Petrova of the Kazan Prosecutor's Office. "It is an 8-level anthill."
At least 19 of the children, aged between one and 17 years old, were removed. Some were placed in care; others were hospitalized.
"Upon receipt from the building, the children were in satisfactory condition," explained health worker Tatiana Moroz. "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. Tomorrow the full analyses will be finished and we will give our final conclusion about the condition of their health."
The Islamist sect was unearthed August 1 in a suburb of the city of Kazan in Russia's mainly muslim Tatarstan region during an investigation into militant groups.
Amid chants of defiance, police detained some of its members, including its reclusive 83-year-old leader, Faizrakhman Satarov. Those members 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 Tartastan.
Several members of the sect have now been charged with child abuse.
"This violates nearly every one of the child's rights to health, education and normal development," said Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights Pavel Astakhov. "Unfortunately, the victims' rehabilitation usually takes a long time and requires professional assistance. The parents will have to undergo the required treatment before they are allowed to visit their children."