Autopsy of the "Shakaola massacre": signs of famine but also of death by asphyxiation

Shakaola massacre autopsy shows signs of starvation but also death by asphyxiation

In Kenya, the autopsy of 10 victims of the "Shakaola massacre" began on Monday and reveals its first conclusions.

In the Shakaola forest, where the bodies of 109 victims were exhumed, the first autopsies carried out on Monday at the morgue of the district hospital in the coastal town of Malindi are beginning to reveal the first conclusions. This "crucial stage" should last a week according to the Minister of the Interior, Kithure Kindiki.

According to the head of forensic operations, the autopsy carried out on 10 bodies reveals deaths caused by hunger but also by asphyxiation. “Preliminary reports that we are obtaining indicate that some victims may not have died of starvation,” Mr. Kindiki announced on Friday, adding that some bodies bore injuries.

During this first day, the doctors autopsied nine bodies of children aged between one and 10 years and one of a woman, the head of the national services of forensic medicine, Dr Johansen Oduor, told the press.

"Most of them had features of starvation. We saw features of people who did not eat, there was no food in the stomach, the fat layer was very thin," said he detailed.

Two children, however, showed signs of death by asphyxiation. "From what we hear, there are indications that they (the children) were suffocated. This may be one of the causes of the asphyxiation. This was (the case) in two children," said he asserted.

Before the beginning of the autopsy, the concern hovered around possible organ harvesting, but according to Dr. Johansen Oduor, "no organ was missing".

"All the bodies are decomposed and this complicates for us the calculation of the date of death", he continues, before specifying that the complete results of the identification by DNA sample could not be known before "months".

At least 109 people, the majority of them children, died in the Shakahola forest where the followers of a sect called the International Church of Good News met, according to a still provisional report.

Searches for bodies and mass graves in this forest were indeed suspended on Monday due to heavy rains. Two pastors would be linked to this tragedy, now known as the "Shakaola massacre". Paul Mackenzie Nthenge, who advocated fasting to death "to meet Jesus", as well as one of the country's most famous pastors, Ezekiel Odero.

"There is credible information linking the exhumed bodies (...) to Shakahola" with "several innocent and vulnerable followers (of the Odero church) who have died", say the prosecutors in a court document consulted on Friday by AFP.

The two pastors, currently detained, are due to appear in courts in two different cities on Tuesday. The family of Ruth Kadzo, who was the original founder of the Paul Mackenzie Nthenge church, say they alerted the police several times, without success, according to remarks taken up by Citizen Digital.

They say they were ousted from the church when controversial preacher Paul Mackenzie took over the church and turned teachings into sectarian practices. Ruth's daughter, as well as 5 of her children and grandchildren are missing and could be on the list of victims.

MC (with AFP)

Image credit: Shutterstock/ hyotographics

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