Mass suicides a recurrent world phenomenon

Reuters, March 18, 2000

LONDON, March 18, 2000 (Reuters) - At least 100 members of a Ugandan Doomsday cult died in a ritual mass suicide on Friday, police said on Saturday.

Following is a list of some of the previous mass suicides over the past quarter century.

  • March 23, 1997 - Police in Saint Casimir, Quebec, found the charred bodies of three women and two men inside a house owned by a member of the Solar Temple, an international sect that believes death by ritualized suicide leads to rebirth in a place called "Sirius."

    Police identified the dead as two French women, two Swiss men and a Canadian woman and said they included the house owner, his wife and her mother. The bodies of the five were found in a bedroom, laid out on a bed in the form of a cross.

  • December 1995 - 16 Solar Temple members were found dead in a burned house outside Grenoble, in the French Alps. Two French police officers were among the 16 dead.

  • October 1994 - Police found the burned bodies of 48 Solar Temple members in a farmhouse and three chalets in Switzerland. At the same time in Quebec, five bodies, including that of an infant, were found in a chalet in Morin Heights, a picturesque village in the Laurentians ski resort area north of Montreal.

  • October 1993 - 53 hill tribe villagers in a remote Vietnamese hamlet committed mass suicide with flintlock guns and other primitive weapons in the belief they would go straight to heaven. Officials said they were the victims of a scam devised by a blind local man Ca Van Liem, who received big cash donations in return for promising a speedy road to paradise.

  • April 19, 1993 - At least 70 Branch Davidian cult members died after fire and a shoot-out with police and federal agents ended a 51-day siege of the compound near Waco, Texas.

  • David Koresh, leader of the Waco group, died of a gunshot wound to the head sometime during the blaze. A baby-faced rock guitarist from Dallas, Koresh had preached a messianic gospel of sex, freedom and revolution and told his followers he was Jesus Christ.

  • December 1991 - Mexican police blamed a minister's fervent belief in God for his death and that of 29 followers who suffocated when he told them to keep praying and ignore toxic fumes filling their church. Ramon Morales Almazan shouted at his followers to remain calm as they began to choke, vomit and faint.

  • November 18, 1978 - Paranoid U.S. pastor, the Rev. 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."

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