Deadly Fervor

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Kenyan authorities exhumed the bodies of scores of people from a forest in the country’s southeast this week, the work of what appears to be a religious starvation cult that has shocked the nation, the Washington Post reported Monday.

Police investigators said at least 70 people have been confirmed dead, with the majority of graves belonging to children. They added they have sealed off 800 acres of the Shakahola forest in the Malindi area and declared the site a crime scene.

Authorities added that there could be more bodies, saying the dead are worshippers belonging to the Good News International Church of Pastor Paul Mackenzie.

The non-governmental group Haki Africa said even those worshippers they found had survived then refused food and water after being rescued because of their religion. The group explained that it had alerted authorities about the church’s activities around a month ago and criticized the government for not responding sooner.

Officials countered that they had attempted to help the worshippers but that congregants would hide in the dense forest to elude rescue efforts.

Last month, police detained Mackenzie over his alleged involvement in the death of two children. The controversial preacher moved to Shakahola forest from Malindi after he was arrested and charged with “various offenses” in 2018.

Mackenzie has said he disbanded the church at that time and denies involvement in the deaths of those found this week.

President William Ruto said Monday that Mackenzie’s alleged activities in Shakahola were “akin to terrorists” because both “use religion to advance their heinous acts.”

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