BERLIN : German police on Thursday raided a Christian sect and took away 40 children citing evidence they had been beaten and abused, media reports said.

More than 100 police targeted two locations of “The Twelve Tribes” in the southern state of Bavaria, the local Augsburger Allgemeine and Spiegel Online said. The dawn raids followed “new evidence pointing to significant and ongoing child abuse by the members”, local officials were quoted as saying.

The Christian group, which describes itself as a “spiritual brotherhood”, had been in trouble with authorities before for its refusal to send their children to state schools. In all, police withdrew from the community’s custody 28 children from one monastery near the town of Deiningen and 12 from a second location, Woernitz.

The children were temporarily handed into the care of foster families.

Witnesses to the raids were quoted as saying the police had met no resistance from the Christian group, which denied the allegations.

Spiegel Online quoted local officials as saying a family court and youth office had received “credible, concrete and actionable information” that the “physical and emotional welfare of the children could be permanently compromised”.

The US-founded Twelve Tribes said in an online statement: “We are an open and transparent community that does not tolerate any form of child abuse. Our children grow up in a loving environment and are educated in the spirit of charity.”