Kenya starvation cult 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 in connection with Pastor Mackenzie Nthenge
- ‘Cult leader’ was arrested in April and is due to appear in court again this week
Kenyan authorities have dug up more bodies found in mass graves linked to a cult whose pastor allegedly ordered his followers to starve to death to meet Jesus.
The 19 bodies were recovered within the 800-acre forested land in Kilifi County of coastal Kenya, where pastor Mackenzie Nthenge and his followers lived, authorities said on Tuesday.
The discovery brings the number of deaths tied to the cult to 303, with the toll expected to rise as officials said more mass grave sites were earmarked for exhumation.
Coastal regional 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 in 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 marked out patches of earth with sticks and yellow tape in Shakahola forest in Kilifi county, near the location 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 they reached hospital.
Nthenge was arrested on April 14 after authorities received a tip that dozens of people were starving to death.
Investigators found the pastor’s emaciated followers, whom he had allegedly told that starvation was a way to meet with Jesus.
Forensic experts and homicide detectives carry the bodies of suspected members of a Christian cult named as Good News International Church, who believed they would go to heaven if they starved themselves to death, after their remains were exhumed from their graves in Shakahola forest of Kilifi county, Kenya, in April
At least three children are believed 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 starved to death in the custody of their parents.
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 whom he reportedly told to starve themselves in order to ‘meet Jesus’.
Officials had previously reported just seven deaths in eastern Kenya in connection with the arrest of Mackenzie Nthenge, a pastor who reportedly told followers to starve themselves in order to ‘meet Jesus’
Nthenge is expected back in court this week after police were granted more time to hold him pending investigations.
Kenyan President William Ruto has likened Nthenge to a terrorist, while Interior Minister Kindiki Kithure suggested the pastor might be charged with terrorism or genocide-related offences, according to Fox News.