KAZAN, Russia (CBS) -- A member of an Islamic sect in Kazan that has been underground for over a decade described for Reuters the group's living conditions.
Shamil Ibragimov, 29, has been a member of an Islamist sect who has been living in an underground bunker for over a decade.
Russian police earlier this month raided the group's compound, a low-slung brick house topped by a makeshift green minaret. The structure is a more outlandish manifestation of the Islamic faith that predominates in Tatarstan: a ramshackle, labyrinthine "anthill" of narrow corridors, steep stairs and windowless cells whose inhabitants follow a reclusive spiritual leader said to claim God speaks to him in his sleep.
In a raid on Aug. 1, helmeted police removed 20 children authorities said had no schooling, no medical care and "no contact with the outside world" beyond the green metal gate of the property, where about 70 people lived for a decade.
Some of them were born in the warren-like home of the community led by Faizrakhman Satarov, a frail, white-bearded man the regional Interior Ministry says is 85 years old and pronounced himself a prophet in 1964.
Satarov has declared the property an independent Islamic state and could face criminal charges for rejecting state authority, and possibly six months in jail. ther members of the group face charges of criminal neglect of parental responsibilities.
Ibragimov, a father of four, defended the living conditions at the compound. "Every family had a separate room. There was a bathroom on every floor, a sink, tiles, a gas tank," Ibragimov told Reuters, adding, "Even if they (the authorities) have some sorts of demands, for example that there isn't enough space, then let them give us the space, the apartments. Let them give it to us, so we can live in peace."
The children were sent to hospital for checks. A doctor, identified as Tatyana Moroz, said in televised footage that they were "dirty" but in satisfactory condition.
Some have been transferred to a children's home while the investigation continues. A 17-year-old girl is pregnant.
Ibragimov said the sect was singled out for its beliefs, and the raid was traumatic for his family. "The children cried, and yelled, shouted that they didn't want to go away. They got a really big shock, a stress before people, armed to the teeth came in, they'd already begun crying," Ibragimov said.
Shamil Ibragimov, 29, who joined the movement 15 years ago, plans to leave the community in order to work freely and give his children, aged 2 to 9, all of whom the police took away, a chance to go attend kindergarten or school.
"I've been breaking the (Fayzarahman) community rules for three years already - I work," Ibragimov said, adding, "Sometimes they let me out, or else I just jump over the gate, and I got out - over the gate."
The members of the group, which proclaimed their territory an independent Islamic state and do not accept local laws or other Islamic countries, say they are not a sect and should not be pressured for "simply believing in God."
The raid on the compound, left alone by the authorities for a decade, reflects growing concerns among the state authorities and mainstream Muslim leaders about radical Islamic groups in Tatarstan, long presented as a showcase of tolerance.
Mainstream Muslim leaders in Tatarstan have criticized Satarov in the past but paid little attention to the community until regional Mufti Ildus Faizov was wounded in a car bomb attack on July 19 and his deputy was shot dead on the same day.