On Friday, Kenyan detectives discovered 29 more bodies, increasing the total number of victims linked to a doomsday starvation cult to 179, many of whom were youngsters.
The majority of the bodies discovered in a forest near the Indian Ocean port of Malindi are believed to be those of followers of Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, a cab driver-turned-preacher suspected of urging people to starve to death “to meet Jesus.”
Coast Regional Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha, who released the latest data, stated that no one was rescued in the extensive woods on Friday.
Heavy rains had stalled the search and exhumation operation last week with the exercise resuming on Tuesday.
According to Onyancha, 25 persons are in police custody, including Mackenzie and a “enforcer gang” responsible with ensuring that no one broke their fast or fled the forest refuge alive.
Mackenzie has not yet been obliged to make a plea, but a court ruled on Wednesday that he be held for three more weeks pending further investigations into the “Shakahola Forest Massacre.”
The 50-year-old founder of the Good News International Church surrendered on April 14 after police entered Shakahola woodland on a tip-off.
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 rocked Kenyans, prompting President William Ruto to establish a commission of investigation into the killings as well as a task team to reform religious body legislation.
At a court hearing last week, another preacher accused of having ties to Mackenzie and the remains discovered in the forest was granted bail.