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Death toll linked to Kenyan pastor hits 176

The Shakahola Kenya cult case has claimed 179 lives as of Friday, according to the Kenyan police, many of them youngsters.

The majority of the bodies discovered in a jungle close to the town of Malindi on the Indian Ocean, according to the police, are those of Paul Nthenge Mackenzie’s followers. The former cab driver and evangelist is suspected of encouraging his followers to starve to death “to meet Jesus.”

No one was rescued on Friday in the extensive forest, according to Rhoda Onyancha, the Coast Regional Commissioner who released the most recent statistics.

The search and exhumation operation had been halted by heavy rains last week, but it resumed on Tuesday.

Some 25 people — including Mackenzie and an “enforcer gang” tasked with ensuring that no one broke their fast or left the forest hideout alive — are in police custody, Onyancha said.

Mackenzie has not yet been required to enter a plea but a court ordered on Wednesday that he be detained for three more weeks pending further investigations over what has been dubbed the “Shakahola Forest Massacre”.

The 50-year-old founder of the Good News International Church turned himself in on April 14 after police acting on a tip-off first entered Shakahola forest.

While starvation appears to be the main cause of death, some of the victims — including children — were strangled, beaten, or suffocated, according to chief government pathologist Johansen Oduor.

Court documents filed on Monday said some of the corpses had their organs removed, with police alleging the suspects were engaged in forced harvesting of body parts.

But Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki urged caution, telling reporters on Tuesday that “it is a theory we are investigating.”


The case has stunned Kenyans and led President William Ruto to set up a commission of inquiry into the deaths and a task force to review regulations governing religious bodies.


Another pastor accused of links to Mackenzie and to the bodies found in the forest was released on bail at a court hearing last week.


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Written by Olusesan Oba

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