Body Count Reaches 979 in Uganda Cult Deaths

Fox News, April 27, 2000

Gravediggers Thursday exhumed 55 bodies from a garage at a house that had been rented by a doomsday cult leader in a residential area just south of Kampala, Uganda, bringing the total of known deaths to 979.

Police spokesman Assuman Mugenyi told journalists that rows of black plastic bags laid outside the bungalow contained the bodies of 22 women, 15 men, 10 boys and eight girls.

The bodies had been in the ground for more than a month but it was not clear how they were killed, Mugenyi said.

"They were all naked with no signs of strangulation," he said. "There were several children aged between eight months and two years."

Mugenyi said the bodies were found in three graves inside the garage. He said the cause of death would have to be determined by pathologists.

The house - rented by suspected cult leader Dominic Kataribabo, an excommunicated Roman Catholic priest - is about 3 miles from the Kampala city center in southwestern Uganda. It was sealed off late last week after locals noticed a strong smell coming from the ground following a heavy downpour.

Further digging was postponed until police were provided with the proper equipment to exhume the bodies - after the government came under heavy criticism last month for using barefoot prisoners to exhume nearly 400 bodies from several mass graves on the grounds. On Thursday, about 20 Kampala City Council workers, dressed in yellow plastic overalls and rubber boots, dug up the corpses and loaded them onto a tractor.

The bodies would be buried in a public cemetery later on Thursday, police said.

Another 500 members of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God were burned alive in their church in Kanungu on March 17. The deaths were first believed to be a mass suicide. But after the other bodies were discovered, authorities began to speak of mass murder.

Dozens of police and soldiers kept reporters and photographers 150 yards away from the property in Ggaba, outside Kampala, as the workers removed the bodies.

Neighbors said Thursday that four women and two boys had been living in the small brick house until March 14, three days before the fire in Kanungu. They said busloads of people would go to the house to pray.

Police believe the sect's leaders had been systematically killing their followers for months after a prediction that the world would end failed to come true.

Arrest warrants have been issued for six alleged leaders, including Kataribabo, although police admit they do not even know if they are still alive or perished in the Kanungu blaze.

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