Updated: Jul 23
The death toll of Kenya's doomsday cult has surpassed 400, with detectives uncovering 12 more bodies this month believed to be followers of a pastor who instructed them to fast to death in order to meet Jesus.
Pastor Paul Mackenzie, associated with the cult located in a forested area in Malindi, coastal Kenya, is currently in police custody, alongside 36 other suspects, who are yet to face charges.
Coast Regional Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha confirmed that the number of fatalities has now reached 403, with 95 individuals rescued from the group.
Last month, some suspects and rescued individuals initiated a hunger strike while in prison and at the rescue centre, prompting the prosecutor to take them to court for attempted suicide. Although most agreed to resume eating, one suspect died while in custody.
Kenya Red Cross officers stationed in Malindi town have received reports of 613 people missing, and detectives are still discovering mass graves.
Out of the 403 bodies, 253 have undergone DNA matching, and pathologists noted that many of the bodies were decomposed.
Pastor Mackenzie relocated to the forested area in 2019 after his church was shut down due to his controversial teachings, which included discouraging children from attending school. He had previously been arrested and released on bail in connection with the disappearance of children.
A judicial commission of inquiry formed by President William Ruto to investigate the tragedy and identify those responsible was nullified by a court order after opposition leader Raila Odinga filed a petition against it.
The President has described the events in Malindi as "akin to terrorism" and pledged to take decisive action against "those using religion to advance their heinous acts."