Kenyan police have recovered 73 corpsesmost from common pits in a forest in eastern Kenya, believed to be followers of a Christian cult that claimed they would go to heaven if they starved to death, a police officer said Monday.
The death toll, which has risen repeatedly as exhumations have been carried out, could rise further. The Kenyan Red Cross reported that 112 people have been reported missing to a search and advice service it set up at a local hospital.
The cult’s leader, Paul Mackenzie, was arrested on April 14 following a notice suggesting the existence of shallow graves containing the bodies of at least 31 of his followers.
“The death toll now stands at 73 people”Malindi chief detective Charles Kamau, in Kilifi county, told Reuters by telephone.
The followers of the self-proclaimed International Church of the Good News they had been living in various isolated settlements in an area of about 324 hectares within the Shakahola forest.
The Criminal Investigations Directorate stated on Twitter that 33 people had been rescued so far.
Earlier Monday, the country’s police chief Japhet Koome, visiting the scene, said most of the people were found in mass graves, as well as eight who were found alive and emaciated, but they died later.
Koome said that others 14 members of the sect were in police custody.
Mackenzie was arraigned on April 15 at the Malindi court, where the judge gave the police 14 days to carry out investigations while he was detained. Kenyan media have reported that he is refusing to receive food and water.
(With information from Reuters)
They found another 27 corpses in Kenya of members of a cult: the pastor asked them to fast until they met Jesus