From his home atop a rural ridge, Mayson Merk hears the drone of Arabic chanting from the forest below and the staccato crackle of gunfire in the night.

Merk swears he once saw a man with an AK-47 guarding the entrance to these woods, home to a village of devout Muslims. But what goes on behind the canopy of trees remains a mystery and a worry to him.

"They seem suspicious of everyone," Merk, 19, said of the villagers. "I can't say they are bad people. I just don't know what their intentions are."

The village, known as Holy Islamville, has been a source of speculation and concern since it was established in 1983 by Sheikh Mubarik Ali Gilani, a mystical Pakistan-based cleric, and a group of his followers.

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