Kenyan cult death toll rises to 200, more than 600 missing

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – The death toll from a doomsday cult in Kenya has risen to 201, after police recovered 22 more bodies, many with signs of starvation, according to the Coast regional commissioner.

The bodies are believed to be followers of Paul McKenzie, a pastor based in coastal Kenya. He is believed to have ordered the congregation to starve to death in order to meet Jesus.

More than 600 people are still missing.

Mackenzie, who was arrested last month, remains in custody. Police plan to charge him with terrorism-related crimes.

Hundreds of bodies have been exhumed from dozens of mass graves spread across its 800-acre site in coastal County Kilifi.

Mackenzie claims he closed his church in 2019 and moved to his wooded property to farm.

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Autopsies on more than 100 bodies last week revealed that the victims died of starvation, suffocation, suffocation and blunt force trauma.

Local media reported cases of internal organ loss, citing investigators in the case.

Mackenzie, his wife and 16 other suspects will appear in court at the end of the month.

Preacher Paul McKenzie, center, who was arrested two weeks ago for asking his followers to starve to death to meet Jesus, appears in court in Malindi, Kenya, Tuesday, May 2, 2023. The Malindi court released the pastor and pastor. the police re-arrested him and brought him to the upper court of the coastal city of Shanzu.

(AP Photo)

On Saturday, Coastal District Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha said the total number of those arrested had risen to 26, with 610 missing by their families.

It is unclear how many survivors have so far survived the search and rescue operation at Mackenzie’s vast property. Some of them were too weak to walk when they were found.

Cults are common in Kenya, a religious society.

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Across the country, police have questioned other religious leaders whose teachings are considered misleading and against basic human rights.

President William Ruto last week formed a commission of inquiry to investigate how hundreds of people were lured to the beach to their deaths and recommend action against institutions that failed to act.

Mackenzie was previously accused of the deaths of children at his church in a case that is still pending in court. The nearby residents raised the alarm after his followers moved to a forested area.

© 2023 The Canadian Press

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