After 15 more bodies were discovered on Wednesday, the authorities said that the death toll in an investigation into a Kenyan cult suspected of encouraging members to starve themselves to death had increased to 226.
Near the town of Malindi on the Indian Ocean, investigators are scouring the forest hideout of a group known as the Good News International Church.
Its founder, former taxi driver-turned-preacher Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, is charged with encouraging followers to fast until they pass away “to meet Jesus.”
“Following today’s exercise, 14 bodies were exhumed and one was found in the forest,” regional commissioner Rhoda Onyancha said.
Another person was found alive by emergency teams, she said.
So far 112 autopsies have been carried out, most of which show that the individual died of hunger, investigators say.
Others, including children, show signs of having been strangled, beaten, or suffocated.
Court documents filed last week said some of the corpses had their organs removed, with police alleging the suspects were engaged in the forced harvesting of body parts.
But Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki has urged caution, telling reporters that “it is a theory we are investigating”.
Onyancha reported that 26 individuals had been detained on Saturday, including Mackenzie and a “enforcer gang” entrusted with making sure that nobody broke their fast or survived the escape from the forested refuge.
The tragic story has shocked Kenyans and prompted President William Ruto to form a task force to review laws controlling religious organizations as well as a commission to investigate the fatalities.
A prominent and affluent televangelist named Ezekiel Odero has been charged with having ties to Mackenzie and the bodies discovered in the forest.