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Death toll in Kenyan starvation cult case crosses 400 as 12 more bodies exhumed, over 600 people still missing

According to the authorities, most of the deceased were adherents of the preacher Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, the founder of the Good News International Church. The accused pastor and 36 other suspects are currently in police custody.

On Monday, July 17, officials investigating the Kenyan Christian doomsday cult deaths said that the death toll had crossed 400 as 12 more bodies were exhumed on Monday in Shakahola. Coastal Regional Commissioner, Rhonda Onyancha said that the death toll has reached 403 adding that the exhumation process continues.

Onyancha also said that 95 people have been rescued.

According to the authorities, most of the deceased were adherents of the preacher Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, the founder of the Good News International Church. The accused pastor and 36 other suspects are currently in police custody.

More than 610 people are still reported to be missing from villages around the forest. DNA matching had been performed on 253 of the 403 bodies exhumed so far.

Mackenzie relocated to the forested area in Malindi in 2019 after his church was closed due to his preaching, which included encouraging children not to attend school. Earlier, he was arrested and released on bond in connection with the disappearance of children.

A judicial panel of investigation established by Kenyan President William Ruto to determine what happened and who was responsible was overturned by a court decision after opposition leader Raila Odinga appealed against it.

The president called what happened in Malindi “terrorism” and vowed to take down “those using religion to advance their heinous acts.”

The believers of the Christian doomsday cult were told that they would reach heaven faster and meet Jesus Christ if they starved to death. Official autopsies on some of the bodies in the enormous Shakahola farm located inside the forest found evidence of malnutrition, suffocation, and beatings. The findings were confirmed by chief government pathologist Johansen Oduor. However, most of the victims appeared to have died of starvation.

The Christian pastor, in his defense claimed that he had done nothing wrong and that his Church shut down in 2019. As per reports, Nthenge recited the names of three villages (Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Judea) before baptizing people in ponds and asking them to starve to death.

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