BERLIN (AP) — Austrian police said Monday they have arrested a 54-year-old man after he attacked two social workers with pepper spray when they found him living illegally in a private warehouse in northeastern Austria with a woman and six children. little ones.

Police in the Austrian province of Lower Austria were still trying to determine the identity of six children, who ranged in age from 7 months to 5 years.

Neighbors in Obritz, a small town near the Czech border, alerted local authorities last week that a family was living illegally in a local winery.

“Residents sometimes heard children’s voices in the basement,” the city’s deputy mayor, Erich Greil, told Austrian broadcaster ORF. «As soon as [local residents] He came closer, he was silent.

When two social workers arrived last Thursday to check on the children, police said the man pepper-sprayed them and blocked the basement door.

Social workers called the police, who arrived at the scene and arrested the man. When police searched the basement, they found a woman and the six children, believed to be the man’s couple and children.

Police also found several weapons, including a pistol, crossbows, and BB guns.

According to police, the man said the children were born in England. Police said they were not officially registered in Austria and were working to confirm the children’s identities.

The children were taken to a nearby hospital and were not neglected or harmed, the police spokesman said. They are now in the custody of social services.

Local media reported that the man is a follower of the so-called Reichsbuerger movement, or Citizens of the Reich. The right-wing extremist conspiracy group believes the Allied Powers’ partition of Germany after World War II and subsequent democratic states that followed were illegal, arguing instead that the original Reich still exists.

A spokesman for the Lower Austrian police did not confirm the man’s alleged affiliation with citizens of the Reich.