Kazan mosque
Local Muslims distanced themselves from Faizrakhman Sattarov sect

A member of the reclusive Muslim sect that kept 27 children captive underground for more than a decade has described the living conditions in the bunker where they were held.

Shamil Ibragimov, 29, and his four children aged two to nine, were among the 70 sect members Russian police found living in catacomb-like cells beneath the suburbs of Kazan.

His children never came into contact with the outside world, went to school or saw a doctor, because of strict rules imposed by the community's self-professed "prophet" Faizrakhman Sattarov.

Nevertheless Ibragimov defended the living conditions at the sect's compound.

"Every family had a separate room. There was a bathroom on every floor, a sink, tiles, a gas tank," he said.

The rooms were dug under a three-storey building topped by a small minaret, which Sattarov, 83, bought in 1996 and declared to be an independent Islamic state.

No-one, apart from a few members who worked as traders at a local market, was allowed to exit the eight-level underground bunker.

Ibragimov said he had been breaking the strict community reclusion law for the past three years in order to work.

"Sometimes they let me out, or else I just jumped over the gate and got out," he said.

The catacombs were discovered when armed police raided Sattarov's house as part of an investigation into the killing of Kazan's Muslim leader, Valiulla Yakupov.

Ibragimov said that the raid traumatised his family.

"The children cried, and yelled, shouted that they didn't want to go away. They got a really big shock when people armed to the teeth came in," he said.

Some of the 27 children were taken to hospital for checks. A pregnant 17-year-old girl was among the rescued.

Dr Tatyana Moroz told local press the children were "dirty" but in satisfactory health.

Ibragimov said he would leave the community and join the outside world to work and to give his children an education.

The children have been transferred to a children's home, while police investigations continue.

Sattarov has been charged with negligence and cruelty against children, along with three other men.

Some of Sattarov's followers, who call themselves "muammin", Arabic for "believers",   said the group was not a sect and they should not be prosecuted for "simply believing in God."

Kazan's Muslim community distanced itself from the group.