Doomsday Cult Death Toll Rises to Over 400 as Authorities Continue to Uncover Mass Graves
After authorities uncovered 12 more bodies on Monday (July 17), the total number of deaths linked to a doomsday cult in Kenya has climbed to over 400, Associated Press reports.
Pastor Paul Mackenize allegedly told his followers of the Good News International Church that they needed to fast to death in order to meet Jesus.
He and 36 other suspects linked to the church are in police custody.
Earlier this year, the disgraced pastor denied any wrongdoing and claimed he did not order his followers to fast. He has not been formally charged as of publishing.
"He [Mackenzie] told them to starve themselves ahead of the world’s end on April 15, saying he would be that last one and that he would lock the doors," Stephen Mwiti, whose wife and six children joined the cult and are possibly among those who died, told Reuters in May.
NBC News reports Mackenzie insisted that he shuttered the church, which is reportedly based in Malindi, Kenya, four years ago.
According to The Independent, Coast Regional Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha said the death toll stands at 403 and that 253 of those exhumed have undergone DNA testing in hopes of identifying the victims.
A reported 95 people have been rescued, however, 613 people have been reported missing to the Kenyan Red Cross. As searching continues, authorities are discovering mass graves.
Mackenize has been in police custody since April 14. Reuters reports he is refusing food and water.