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‘Starved to death’: Dozens of bodies exhumed amid probe on cult in Kenya

Kenyan police have exhumed the bodies of 47 people, up from a previous count of 21, thought to be followers of a Christian cult who believed they would go to heaven if they starved themselves to death.

Police near Kenya’s eastern coastal town of Malindi started exhuming bodies on Friday from the Shakahola forest.

“In total, 47 people have died at the Shakahola forest,” detective Charles Kamau told Reuters on Sunday. The exhumations were still ongoing, Kamau said.

Officials reported the deaths in connection with Paul Mackenzie, the leader of the Good News International Church, who reportedly told followers to starve themselves in order to “meet Jesus”. 

Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki said the entire 800 acre forest had been sealed off and declared a scene of crime.

“This horrendous blight on our conscience must lead not only to the most severe punishment of the perpetrator(s) of the atrocity on so many innocent souls, but tighter regulation (including self-regulation) of every church, mosque, temple or synagogue going forward,” he said. 

‘Brainwashed’ for salvation

Mackenzie was charged last month, according to local media, after two children starved to death in the custody of their parents.

He was initially released on bail of $700 (100,000 Kenyan shillings).

But police arrested Mackenzie on April 15 after discovering the bodies of four followers.

The case is due to be heard in court on May 2 with an initial hearing on Monday.

“This pastor will have to face all these charges even though he has gone on a hunger strike saying that he is praying and fasting in custody,” a police source said.

On Friday, Kenyan police said that they had exhumed three bodies.

Eleven other followers of the church – seven men and four women aged 17 to 49 – were taken to hospital, three of them in critical condition, after being rescued on April 14.

Police raided the forest after receiving information of the deaths of “ignorant citizens starving to death under the pretext of meeting Jesus after being brainwashed” by Mackenzie.

Local media reported that six of Mackenzie’s associates were also arrested.

READ MORE: Turkish police detain cult leader and followers

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