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19 Jan, 2024 10:17

Kenyan doomsday cult leader charged with murder of 191 children

Paul Mackenzie is accused of ordering hundreds of his followers to starve themselves to death
Kenyan doomsday cult leader charged with murder of 191 children

A doomsday cult leader has been charged with terrorism offenses and the murder of 191 children following the discovery of 429 bodies in a forest area near his church in Kenya.

Paul Mackenzie allegedly instructed his followers to starve themselves to death so they would meet Jesus Christ before the end of the world. However, autopsies show that some died from strangulation or suffocation.

He was arrested last April after police rescued 15 emaciated church members and the first bodies were discovered in shallow graves located in the Shakahola forest area in the coastal county of Kilifi.

Exhumations over the course of several months uncovered 429 bodies, including those of 191 children, only 11 of whom have been identified to date, according to the charge sheet.

Mackenzie is alleged to have forced his followers to destroy their identification documents and forbade them from interacting with anyone outside the cult community.

According to Reuters, the mass starvation of members was designed to occur in three phases: first children, then women, followed by young men, and finally older men.

He is currently serving a one-year prison sentence for operating a film studio and producing movies for his preaching without a valid license. He is one of 95 people who will be charged with murder, child torture, and other offenses in relation to the atrocity.

Mackenzie was previously accused of extreme sermons and responsibility for the deaths of two children in 2017 and 2019. In the first case, he was cleared of all charges. He was released on bail pending trial in relation to the second case.

The cult leader has also been charged with “facilitating the commission of a terrorist act.”

He appeared before Kenya’s High Court in Mombasa on Wednesday along with 30 of his followers who are also charged with the murder of 191 children. None entered a plea because the judge granted a request for mental health assessments.

Mackenzie and his co-defendants denied the charges and will appear in court again for a bond hearing on February 8.

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