More Than 200 Die in Uganda Cult Mass Suicide

Reuters, March 18, 2000

KAMPALA, March 18 - Up to 230 members of a Ugandan Doomsday cult have set themselves ablaze, police said on Saturday, taking their lives in the world's second biggest ritual mass suicide.

Followers of the obscure "Ten Commandments of God" sect gathered in a church 320 km (200 miles) southwest of the capital Kampala on Friday, a police spokesman told Reuters.

They set themselves on fire after several hours of chanting and singing.

"Prior to this incident their leader told believers to sell off their possessions and prepare to go to Heaven," the spokesman said.

Police put the death toll between 100 and 230.

No further details were immediately available.

Only a 1978 mass suicide had more victims. Then, paranoid U.S. pastor, the Reverend Jim Jones, led 914 followers to their deaths at Jonestown, Guyana, by drinking a cyanide-laced fruit drink.

Cult members who refused to swallow the liquid were shot. Jones had carved a sign over his altar at Jonestown, reading "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it."

In recent years there have been several smaller group suicides in Europe and North America, three of them involving the Solar Temple, an international sect that believes death by ritual suicide leads to rebirth.

Last September, Ugandan police disbanded another Doomsday cult, the 1,000-member "World Message Last Warning" sect.

The cult's leaders were charged with rape, kidnapping and illegal confinement.

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