Kenya cult probe exhumes 21 bodies, say police sources

Eleven other followers of the church were taken to hospital, three of them in critical condition, after being rescued on April 14

By AFP

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Forensic experts and homicide detectives carry the bodies of suspected members of a Christian cult named as Good News International Church in Shakahola forest of Kilifi county, Kenya. — Reuters
Forensic experts and homicide detectives carry the bodies of suspected members of a Christian cult named as Good News International Church in Shakahola forest of Kilifi county, Kenya. — Reuters

Published: Sun 23 Apr 2023, 3:29 PM

Last updated: Sun 23 Apr 2023, 3:30 PM

Twenty-one bodies have been exhumed in Kenya while investigating a cult whose followers are believed to have starved themselves to death, police sources said on Saturday, warning the toll could rise.

Officials had earlier reported seven deaths in eastern Kenya in connection with the arrest of Makenzie Nthenge, a pastor who reportedly told followers to starve themselves in order to "meet Jesus".

"In total since yesterday, we have 21 bodies," a police source told AFP on condition of anonymity, referring to exhumations in the Shakahola forest outside the coastal town of Malindi.

"We have not even scratched the surface which gives a clear indication that we are likely to get more bodies by the end of this exercise," the source added.

Another police source confirmed the same toll, also on condition of anonymity.

At least three children were among the victims, said one of the sources.

Nthenge, leader of the Good News International Church, turned himself in to police and 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 100,000 Kenyan shillings ($700).

But police arrested Nthenge on April 15 after discovering the bodies of four followers whom he reportedly told to starve themselves in order to "meet Jesus".

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 other 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 on "ignorant citizens starving to death under the pretext of meeting Jesus after being brainwashed" by Nthenge.

Local media reported that six of Nthenge's associates were also arrested.


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