Death toll in Kenyan starvation cult rises to 73

In an ongoing search, bodies are being unearthed from mass graves

KENYA-RELIGION/ Kenya police officers and civilians rescue an emaciated member of a Christian cult named as Good News International Church, whose members believed they would go to heaven if they starved themselves to death, in Shakahola forest of Kilifi county, Kenya April 24, 2023 | Reuters

The death count in a case involving a Kenyan cult has risen to 73. The cult leader Paul Mackenzie Nthenge brainwashed followers into believing that they could meet Jesus if they starved themselves.

In an ongoing search, bodies are being unearthed from mass graves in a forest near the coast in Malindi, Kenya. Kenya's President William Ruto vowed to crack down on "unacceptable" religious movements, AFP reported. 

Some of Nthenge's supporters are still believed to be hiding in the bush around Shakahola, which the police raided earlier this month following a tip-off from a local non-profit group. Since then, dozens of bodies have been unearthed in mass graves dug in shallow pits.

"We have 73 bodies from the forest by this evening and the exercise will continue tomorrow," a police officer involved in the probe told AFP. "It is a very sad state of affairs on how these people died and were buried in shallow graves because we found six bodies squeezed in one grave today," he said.

An investigation has been launched into Good News International Church, of which, Nthenge is a pastor. A 325-hectare area of the forest has been declared a crime scene. 

President Ruto in the meanwhile said, the cult leader was no different than terrorists who "use religion to advance their heinous acts," DW reported.

He instructed the relevant authorities to tackle "people who want to use religion to advance a weird, unacceptable ideology in the Republic of Kenya that is causing unnecessary loss of life."

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