MOSCOW -- Russian police and security officials in St. Petersburg detained 271 people, mostly migrants from Central Asia and the North Caucasus region, during a raid on Friday on Muslim prayer rooms at a central market. They said the raid was carried out to check residency permits and to eliminate networks of religious extremists planning terrorist attacks.
A statement published Friday night by the regional investigative committee said the authorities were verifying the documents of the detainees, who include citizens of Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, as well as an Egyptian and an Afghan.
The federal migration service began deportation procedures on Saturday for 10 of the detainees, and about 30 were found to be in violation of Russian migration laws, an official told the news agency RIA Novosti.
The police said one man from southern Russia, Murat Sarbashev, was suspected of distributing extremist literature and video clips showing terrorist acts in 2010 and 2011.
Video broadcast on Russian television showed heavily armed riot police officers pulling men out of the market and pushing them into waiting buses.
Security officials in St. Petersburg say an extremist group is operating in the city and has been planning terrorist attacks. The raid was intended to uncover "extremist literature, weapons, objects and documents relevant to criminal cases, and people who have carried out such crimes," the statement said. The authorities have opened a case and are searching for evidence pointing to the incitement of terrorism and hatred; a conviction on that charge carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.