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Deadly Doomsday Cult in Kenya

Hundreds of followers of a pastor based in coastal Kenya, Paul Mackenzie, were found dead in mass graves. 

The death toll has now risen to 300 and authorities are still locating graves on Mackenzie’s 800-acre property in Kilifi County. More than 600 of his followers are still reportedly missing. Investigators have widened their search parameters in the Shakahola forest to try and recover the rest of the missing congregants. 

"The death toll has now risen to 303 after the 19 bodies were exhumed," regional commissioner Rhoda Onyancha said.

The followers of the Good News International Church were ordered to starve themselves to death in order to meet Jesus Christ. Their children were also forced to take part so they could go to heaven before the end of the world. 

Autopsies conducted on the recovered bodies revealed some of the causes of death include starvation, strangulation, and injuries sustained from blunt force trauma. According to chief government pathologist Johansen Oduor, investigators said a few bodies were missing internal organs. 

Locals became suspicious of the church when the pastor moved his congregation into a secluded part of the Kenyan forest. Rescued followers were recovered from the camp in the forest and Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki stated that some are still refusing food. It is unclear how many survivors were rescued from the vast property. 

Mackenzie turned himself in to police in April and is still in the custody of Kenyan Police. He was denied bail last month and has not yet entered a plea. Police plan to charge him with terrorism or genocide-related offenses. The pastor, his wife, and at least 16 others have court dates scheduled for the end of the month related to crimes committed on his property. 

This is not the first time the doomsday pastor has faced criminal charges or suspicion. He has a history of extremist behaviors and Mackenzie was previously accused of being involved in the deaths of children belonging to his church. The case against him is still ongoing. 

After the tragedy, Kenyan people have raised alarms concerning the regulation of religious worship in the predominantly Christian country. Kenyan president, William Ruto, formed a commission to investigate how hundreds were manipulated. He recommended that institutes take responsibility and act against those who failed to report the atrocities. Police across the East African country are questioning religious leaders whose beliefs could be misleading or questionable. In order to commemorate the victims, Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki announced that authorities will transform a part of the Shakahola forest into a "place of remembrance... so that Kenyans and the world will not forget what happened."

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