Kenya famine death toll reaches 300: More bodies discovered in mass graves linked to pastor who told followers they would meet Jesus if they gave up food
- Officials report more deaths linked to Pastor Mackenzie Nthenge
- ‘Cult leader’ was arrested in April and must appear in court again this week
Kenyan authorities have exhumed more bodies found in mass graves linked to a cult whose pastor allegedly ordered his followers to starve to meet Jesus.
The 19 bodies were recovered from the 800-hectare forest area in coastal Kenya’s Kilifi County where Pastor Mackenzie Nthenge and his followers lived, authorities said on Tuesday.
The discovery brings the number of deaths linked to the cult to 303, and the toll is expected to rise as officials said more mass graves have been set aside for exhumation.
Coastal Region Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha told local journalists that 613 people tied to the area are missing.
In April, Kenyan officials exhumed 21 bodies while investigating the cult.
Police and residents of Kenya load the bodies of the deceased into the back of a truck in April
Kenyan officials, above, exhumed 21 bodies in April while investigating the cult
Homicide detectives used sticks and yellow tape to mark patches of dirt in Shakahola Forest in Kilifi province, near the site where police rescued 15 members of the Good News International Church, according to footage broadcast by Citizen TV that month.
Four of them died before reaching the hospital.
Nthenge was arrested on April 14 after authorities received a tip that dozens of people were dying of starvation.
Investigators found the preacher’s emaciated followers, whom he reportedly told that starvation was a way to meet Jesus.
Forensic experts and homicide detectives carry the bodies of suspected members of a Christian sect called Good News International Church, who believed they would go to heaven if they starved themselves, after their remains were exhumed from their graves in Shakahola Forest in Kilifi province. , Kenya, in April
At least three children are said to be among the victims.
Nthenge, leader of the Good News International Church, turned himself in to police and was charged in April, according to local media, after two children in the care of their parents died of starvation.
He was initially released on bail of 100,000 Kenyan shillings ($700).
But police re-arrested Nthenge on April 15 after discovering the bodies of four followers he allegedly told them to starve themselves to “meet Jesus.”
Officials had previously reported just seven deaths in eastern Kenya in connection with the arrest of Mackenzie Nthenge, a pastor who allegedly told followers to starve themselves to ‘meet Jesus’
Nthenge is expected back in court this week after police were given more time to detain him pending investigation.
Kenyan President William Ruto has likened Nthenge to a terrorist, while Interior Minister Kindiki Kithure suggested the pastor could be charged with terrorism or genocide-related crimes. according to Fox News.