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Kenya finds seven more bodies as cult massacre exhumations resume

By AFP
Kenya Kenya has exhumed hundreds of bodies from mass graves in a wilderness area near the coast.  By Yasuyoshi Chiba (AFP/File)
MON, 03 JUN 2024 LISTEN
Kenya has exhumed hundreds of bodies from mass graves in a wilderness area near the coast. By Yasuyoshi Chiba (AFP/File)

Kenyan investigators found seven more bodies on Monday as exhumations resumed in a forest where hundreds of victims of a doomsday starvation cult were buried in mass graves, police said.

The remains of 436 people have now been unearthed in a remote wilderness inland from the Indian Ocean coastal town of Malindi in a grisly case that shocked Kenya and the world.

Images broadcast on Kenyan television showed seven blue plastic body bags lined up on the ground in Shakahola Forest before been transferred to a vehicle.

"We exhumed seven bodies today. In one grave, there were four bodies while the other three were buried separately," Dr Johansen Oduor, Chief Government Pathologist told journalists at the site.

"We have about 50 graves that have been identified and we are going to dig them up," he said.

Self-proclaimed pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie is alleged to have incited his followers to starve to death in order to "meet Jesus" before what he predicted would be the end of the world in August last year.

He was arrested in April 2023 after the discovery of the first bodies in what has been dubbed the "Shakahola forest massacre".

The former taxi driver turned messiah has pleaded not guilty to 191 counts of murder, manslaughter and terrorism. He has also been charged with child torture and cruelty.

So far, 34 of the 429 bodies exhumed between April and October last year have been positively identified through DNA profiling.

While starvation caused many deaths, some of the bodies, including those of children, showed signs of death by asphyxiation, strangulation or bludgeoning, according to government autopsies.

Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki last year accused Kenyan police of laxity in investigating the initial reports of starvation in Shakahola forest.

"The Shakahola massacre is the worst breach of security in the history of our country," he told a senate committee hearing, vowing to "relentlessly push for legal reforms to tame rogue preachers."

A devout largely Christian nation, Kenya has struggled to regulate unscrupulous churches and cults that dabble in criminality.

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