Thursday, July 25, 2024

An autopsy begins on the bodies of the Kenyan cult members who have been starved to death

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NAIROBI (Reuters) – Pathologists on Monday began autopsies on more than 100 bodies linked to a Kenyan sect whose leader is said to have ordered them to starve to death so they would be the first to enter heaven, officials said.

One hundred and nine followers of the Good News International Church, based in Shakahola Forest in eastern Kenya, are known to have perished.

Authorities have exhumed 101 bodies from shallow graves since April 21, while eight members of the sect were found alive but later dead. To date, 44 people have been rescued.

The deaths amount to one of the worst cult-related tragedies in recent history, and the death toll is expected to rise further, with the Kenya Red Cross saying more than 300 people are missing.

Cult leader Paul Mackenzie has been in police custody since April 14, along with 14 other cult members. Kenyan media reported that he was refusing food and water.

McKenzie has not made any public comment. Reuters spoke to two lawyers on McKenzie’s behalf, but both declined to comment on the charges against him.

Home Minister Keithuri Kindike said on Friday that most of the bodies recovered so far were children.

The government’s chief pathologist Johansen Odur will lead the post-mortem examinations.

“We will perform the autopsies in teams,” he told a news conference.

Kindike said the autopsy will look at all possibilities, including whether or not some of the bodies had missing organs.

Oduor said the government has been collecting DNA samples from those who have reported missing relatives and will match them in a process that takes at least a month.

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On Sunday, President William Ruto said he would appoint a judicial commission of inquiry this week to investigate what happened in Shkula.

(Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Sophia Christensen and Angus McSwan)

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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