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Kenya: Starvation Cult Death Toll Rises To 73, Says Police

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According to a police officer, 73 bodies suspected to be those of members of a Christian cult who believed they would enter paradise by starving themselves have been found by Kenyan police, largely from mass graves in a forest in eastern Kenya.

As exhumations have been carried out in huge numbers, the death toll could increase even more. 112 persons have been reported missing to the Kenyan Red Cross’s tracking and counselling station, which it has set up at a nearby hospital.

The cult’s leader, Paul Mackenzie, was detained on April 14 after the police received a tip-off that suggested the existence of shallow graves holding the deaths of at least 31 of his followers.

According to Charles Kamau, head detective in Malindi, Kilifi County, “the death toll now stands at 73 people,” he told British news agency Reuters over the phone.

He claimed that three more people had been taken into custody, without specifying more details. According to the privately owned NTV channel, one of those detained was in custody on suspicion of being a close aid of the cult’s leader.

In an 800-acre section of the Shakahola forest, members of the self-declared Good News International Church had been residing in many remote villages. So far 33 persons have been saved, according to a tweet from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.

The majority of the victims were discovered in mass graves, according to the nation’s police chief Japhet Koome, who visited the area earlier on Monday. Eight victims were discovered alive and emaciated but eventually passed away. Koome reported that 14 more cult members were being held by authorities.

On April 15, Mackenzie was charged at Malindi Law Courts, where the judge granted the police 14 days to look into the case while he was being held in custody. According to Kenyan media, he is denying himself food and drink.

According to President William Ruto, Mackenzie’s beliefs are incompatible with any genuine faith. Ruto made the statement while making a speech at a separate public event just outside of Nairobi. “Mr. Mackenzie… poses and pretends to be a pastor when in reality he is a terrible criminal,” Ruto added.

He said that he had given the go-ahead for the necessary agencies to investigate the incident’s source and deal with “people who want to use religion to advance weird, unacceptable ideology in the Republic of Kenya that is causing unnecessary loss of life.”

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