Today, Friday, Kenyan investigators discovered 29 new bodies, bringing the number of victims of the “Shakahola massacre” to 179 in a forest in southeastern Kenya, where a religious group calling for strict fasting was meeting to “meet Jesus.”
Police believe that most of the bodies found near the coastal city of Malindi belong to the community of Paul Mackenzie Nthingi, a former taxi driver and self-proclaimed “pastor” of the Good News Church he founded.
District Governor Rhoda Onyansha, who announced the latest toll, said that no one was rescued Friday in this wooded area.
Heavy rains halted the search and exhumation operations last week, and only resumed on Tuesday.
Onyansha added that about 25 people had been arrested, including McKenzie and men tasked with checking that there were no followers breaking the fast or fleeing the forest.
A court on Wednesday ordered the continued detention of Paul Nthingi Mackenzie.
A judge in Mombasa (southeast) ordered the extension of the detention of “Priest” McKenzie and 17 other defendants, including his wife, for a period of 30 days, starting from the second of May, the date on which they appeared before the court.
The 50-year-old “priest” turned himself in to the police on April 14.
It appears from the autopsies performed on the first bodies that the majority of the victims died of starvation, perhaps after following the sermons of Paul Nthingi Mackenzie.
But chief of forensic operations Johansen Odio recently reported that some victims, including children, had been strangled, beaten or suffocated.
Likewise, autopsies revealed the presence of “missing organs in some bodies,” according to the Criminal Investigation Directorate, which indicated “a well-coordinated trade in human organs involving several actors.”
However, Home Minister Kethuri Kindike urged caution on the issue, stressing that it was “a theory that we are investigating”.
The massacre has revived debate over the oversight of religious groups in predominantly Christian Kenya, which has 4,000 “churches,” according to official figures.
President William Ruto established a working group responsible for “reviewing the legal and regulatory framework governing religious organizations”.