Kenyan investigators have dug up 29 more bodies on Friday bringing the number of victims linked to a doomsday starvation cult to 179, many of them children.
Police believe most of the bodies found in a forest near the Indian Ocean town of Malindi belong to followers of Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, a taxi driver-turned-preacher who is accused of inciting them to starve to death “to meet Jesus.”
Coast Regional Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha, who announced the latest figures, said no person was rescued on Friday in the vast bush land.
Heavy rains had stalled the search and exhumation operation last week with the exercise resuming on Tuesday.
Some 25 people — including Mackenzie and an “enforcer gang” tasked with ensuring that no one broke their fast or left the forest hideout alive — are in police custody, Onyancha said
Mackenzie has not yet been required to enter a plea but a court ordered on Wednesday that he be detained for three more weeks pending further investigations over what has been dubbed the “Shakahola Forest Massacre”.
The 50-year-old founder of the Good News International Church turned himself in on April 14 after police acting on a tip-off first entered Shakahola forest.
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.