'Starvation cult' death toll in Kenya rises to 103 as popular preacher Ezekiel Odero arrested

Forensic teams have been digging in a Kenyan forest and there are fears dozens more victims could still be found after church leaders like Paul Mackenzie and Ezekiel Odero were arrested on suspicion of telling people to starve themselves to get to heaven.

Sky News/April 28, 2023

At least 103 deaths are now being linked to a suspected starvation cult as authorities continue to find bodies in Kenya.

A popular preacher has been arrested after the remains were uncovered in Shakahola forest, where the Good News International Church was based.

Several dozen people were also rescued in a police raid, but most were unable to walk and talk. Some were found emaciated and later died.

The church's leader, Paul Mackenzie, is in custody and is accused of telling people to starve themselves to go to heaven. He's denied any wrongdoing.

A second man, Pastor Ezekiel Odero, has now been arrested and was expected in court on Friday.

Kenya's interior minister said he would "face criminal charges related to mass killing of his followers".

Odero's New Life Prayer Centre Church is based in the same region as Mackenzie's - on Kenya's east coast - and has more than 400,000 subscribers and 70 million views on YouTube.

His services have been attended by senior politicians and people travel from across Kenya to visit the church.

The bodies in the forest were uncovered two weeks ago when the site was raided after a tip-off. Fourteen other cult members were also being held.

Pictures of the 800-acre ranch show mud huts with palm-thatched roofs scattered among the trees and foliage.

There are fears the death toll could rise further as the local Red Cross said more than 200 people had been reported missing.

Kenya's public prosecutions office said it was looking at possible charges including murder, radicalisation and threatening public safety.

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