The death toll from the "Shakahola massacre" in a forest in southeastern Kenya, where a sect whose leader advocated fasting to "meet Jesus" met, now stands at 201 dead after the discovery of 22 new bodies on Saturday , announced the prefect of the region.
Police believe most of the bodies found near the coastal town of Malindi are those of followers of the sect of Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, a former taxi driver and self-proclaimed "pastor" of the International Church of Good News (Good News International Church) that he created.
The region's prefect, Rhoda Onyancha, said 26 people had been arrested so far, including Paul Nthenge Mackenzie and a "gang of thugs" tasked with checking that no follower broke their fast or escaped from the forest.
Paul Mackenzie surrendered to authorities on April 14, after police discovered the first victims in Shakahola Forest. About fifty mass graves have since been discovered.
Investigators will halt exhumations over the next two days to reorganize their operations, which are expected to resume on Tuesday, Onyancha added.
It appears from the autopsies carried out on the first bodies that most of the victims died of starvation, probably after having followed the sermons of Paul Nthenge Mackenzie.
However, some victims, including children, were strangled, beaten or suffocated, forensic operations chief Johansen Oduor said recently.
This massacre has revived the debate on the supervision of worship in Kenya, a predominantly Christian country which has 4.000 "churches", according to official figures.
President William Ruto has established a task force to "review the legal and regulatory framework governing religious organizations".
The Editorial Board (with AFP)