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Monday, April 15, 2024

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Kenyan Cult Deaths Cross 100, Another Pastor Detained Over “Killing Followers”

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A Kenyan televangelist was detained on Thursday in response to reports of the “mass killing of his followers”, the interior ministry reported, while investigators looked into dozens of other fatalities connected to a local religious cult.

As word of pastor Ezekiel Odero’s arrest circulated, authorities said that the death toll in the separate cult probe, which stunned the nation and sparked calls for a crackdown on religious extremist groups, had now reached 103.

As he was brought into a police station by a uniformed officer, Odero, who was wearing white robes and holding a large black book, remained silent as reporters questioned him.

Minister Kithure Kindiki posted on Twitter that many people who had been “holed up” in Odero’s New Life Prayer Centre and Church in the little hamlet of Mavueni on the Indian Ocean coast had been evacuated by authorities.

Kindiki stated that Odero was “being processed to face criminal charges related to mass killing of his followers,” although he did not specify how many had perished. He said nothing about whether the two cases were related.

According to regional official Rhoda Onyancha, the reason for Odero’s arrest was “allegations of deaths that have been occurring at his premises and reported in various morgues or institutions.”

The Shakahola forest incident

The Shakahola forest, where cult leader Paul Mackenzie is accused of forcing his cult members to starve themselves to death so they would be the first to enter paradise before what he said would be the end of the world on April 15, is about 66 kilometres (40 miles) from the town of Mavueni.

Since being taken into police custody on April 14, Mackenzie has remained silent regarding the allegations.

Investigators have uncovered the corpses of 95 members of his self-declared Good News International Church since last Friday in shallow graves in the bush, while eight more were discovered alive and malnourished but soon passed away.

The Kenyan Red Cross reports that more than 300 individuals are missing, thus the death toll, which is already among the highest in recent memory for cult-related catastrophes, is likely to increase.

After learning that Mackenzie had been detained last month on suspicion of killing two children through starvation and suffocation and then freed on bond, some Kenyan MPs blamed the security forces for failing to act in time to stop the mass murders in the Shakahola forest.

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