Kenya starvation cult death toll exceeds 300: official
The pastor is expected to face terrorism charges after trafficking human organs and leading a cult that practiced hunger to meet Jesus Christ.
The death toll in an inquiry related to a Kenyan cult that practiced hunger to "meet Jesus Christ" has topped 300, a senior official said Tuesday.
The majority of the dead were discovered in a jungle near the Indian Ocean port of Malindi and are believed to be followers of Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, a cab driver-turned-preacher who has been in police detention since April 14.
The pastor has been accused of trafficking human organs after authorities found missing organs in the dead bodies recovered from their raid on his property in Malindi in mid-April.
In the case that has shocked the East African nation, the pastor is expected to face terrorism accusations.
Coast Regional Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha revealed that the death toll has risen to 303 after an additional 19 bodies were exhumed.
According to a top government pathologist, Johansen Oduor, some victims died of causes other than starvation, like being strangled, beaten, or suffocated.
Previously, Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki stated that the security forces would "intensify search and rescue operations to save as many lives as possible." The official added, "The entire 800-acre (320-hectare) parcel of land that is part of the Shakahola ranch is hereby declared a disturbed area and an operation zone."
The operation continues to unearth further victims of the pastor as missing reports in the local areas surge after police held Ntehgne in custody.
The Minister further stated that this tragedy will prompt additional investigations into religious extremism in the nation. At a court hearing, another preacher accused of having ties to Mackenzie and the deaths discovered in the forest was granted bail.
Ezekiel Odero, a well-known and rich televangelist, is being probed on a variety of allegations, including murder, suicide assistance, kidnapping, radicalization, crimes against humanity, child abuse, fraud, and money laundering.