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Kenya: 21 More Bodies Exhumed From Shakahola Forest


Nairobi — 21 more bodies were exhumed from Shakahola forest where the exercise resumed Tuesday.

This raises the number of bodies so far exhumed to 133 with many more still believed to be buried in the dense forest where people were urged to starve to death in a religious cult.

Coast Regional Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha says as many as 500 people are reported missing, including from villages around the forest.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki who was back to the forest Tuesday has vowed that no victim will be left in the forest dead or alive, after two people were rescued.

Pastor Paul Mackenzie who is accused of indoctrinating his church followers to starve to death is in custody waiting to face terror-related charges as the state intensifies a crackdown on related activities.

Autopsies on corpses found in mass graves linked to the religious cult have revealed missing organs and raised suspicions of forced harvesting, investigators said even as exhumations resumed.

The discovery of mass graves last month near the Indian Ocean coastal town of Malindi has stunned the deeply religious Christian-majority country in what has been dubbed the “Shakahola forest massacre”.

Police believe most of the bodies belong to followers of self-styled pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie who is accused of ordering them to starve to death “to meet Jesus”.

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.

“Post mortem reports have established missing organs in some of the bodies of victims who have been exhumed,” chief inspector Martin Munene said in an affidavit filed to a Nairobi court.

It is “believed that trade on human body organs has been well coordinated involving several players”, he said, giving no details about the suspected trafficking.

Munene said that Ezekiel Odero, a high-profile televangelist who was arrested last month in connection with the same case and granted bail on Thursday, had received “huge cash transactions,” allegedly from Mackenzie’s followers who sold their property at the cult leader’s bidding.

The Nairobi court ordered the authorities to freeze more than 20 bank accounts belonging to Odero for 30 days.