Twenty-one bodies have been exhumed in Kenya in a probe into a cult whose followers are believed to have starved themselves to death, police sources said Saturday, warning the toll could rise.
Officials had earlier reported seven deaths in connection with the investigation in eastern Kenya following the arrest of Makenzie Nthenge, who reportedly told followers to starve themselves in order to “meet Jesus”.
“In total since yesterday, we have 21 bodies,” a police source told AFP on condition of anonymity, referring to exhumations in the Shakahola forest outside the coastal town of Malindi.
“We have not even scratched the surface which gives a clear indication that we are likely to get more bodies by the end of this exercise,” the source added.
Another police source confirmed the same toll, also on condition of anonymity.
At least three children were among the victims, said one police source.
Nthenge, leader of the Good News International Church, turned himself in to police and was charged last month, according to local media, after two children starved to death in the custody of their parents.
He was later released on bail of 100,000 Kenyan shillings ($700).
Police reported his arrest on April 15 after discovering the bodies of four followers whom he reportedly told to starve themselves in order to “meet Jesus”.
Kenyan police said on Friday that they had exhumed three other bodies.
Eleven other followers of the church — the youngest just 17 — were taken to hospital, three of them in critical condition, after being rescued on April 14.
Police raided the forest after receiving information of the deaths on “ignorant citizens starving to death under the pretext of meeting Jesus after being brainwashed” by Nthenge.