Death toll from religious cult in Kenya exceeds 200

Police and local residents load the exhumed bodies of victims of a religious cult into the back of a truck in the village of Shakahola, near the coastal city of Malindi, in southern Kenya, April 23, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)

NAIROBI – Kenyan investigators on Saturday exhumed 22 more bodies from a suspected cult grave in the Kenyan coastal town of Malindi, a government official said.

Coast Regional Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha said so far 201 bodies have been exhumed since the discovery of the mass graves on a piece of land at Shakahola forest in late April.

The number of people reported missing has increased to 610, Onyancha told journalists at the Shakahola site, adding that one suspect was arrested on Saturday, raising the total number of suspects to 26.

The investigators said most of the cult victims were children who were told by Paul Nthenge, a self-proclaimed pastor, to starve themselves in order to "meet Jesus."

READ MORE: Kenyan cult leader appears in court after more than 100 followers die

A court has allowed an application by the police to have Nthenge and his wife detained for 30 days.

Kenyan President William Ruto has described the incident as terrorism.

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