Doomsday cult death toll rises above 400 as bodies exhumed

The death toll in connection with a doomsday cult in Kenya has raised as authorities discovered 12 more bodies believed to be followers of a pastor who ordered them to fast to death in order to meet Jesus. Pastor Paul Mackenzie, the leader of the cult based in a forested area in Malindi, is currently in police custody, along with 36 other suspects. The investigation into their deaths is ongoing, and charges have yet to be filed against the individuals involved.

Coast Regional Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha confirmed on Monday that the number of fatalities has now reached 403, with 95 people successfully rescued. Last month, some suspects and rescued individuals initiated a hunger strike while in custody, prompting the prosecutor to bring them to court for attempting to take their own lives. Although most of them agreed to resume eating, one suspect tragically died while in custody. The Kenya Red Cross has received reports of 613 people missing in the Malindi area, and detectives are continuing to uncover mass graves.

Of the 403 bodies discovered, 253 have undergone DNA matching, according to Onyancha. Pathologists had previously noted that many of the bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition. Pastor Mackenzie relocated to the forested area in 2019 after his church was shut down due to his controversial teachings, which included discouraging children from attending school. He had previously been arrested and released on bond in connection with the disappearance of children.

President William Ruto established a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the events and determine liability. However, the commission was dissolved following a court order after opposition leader Raila Odinga filed a petition against it. President Ruto had described the situation in Malindi as “akin to terrorism” and vowed to take strong action against those who exploit religion for nefarious purposes.