Authorities in Kenya have reported that 73 members of a cult, who believed in reaching heaven through starvation, have been found dead.
The recovered bodies are believed to belong to members of the Good News International Church, and approximately 50 of them were discovered buried in shallow graves after a police search began on Friday.
Tragically, eight more members who were found severely malnourished and alive have since passed away. Around 29 individuals were successfully rescued from the church’s settlement in the Shakahola Forest, which covered an area of 800 acres.
The cult’s alleged leader, Paul Makenzie Nthenge, was apprehended on April 15th after the police were tipped off about the shallow graves. He had been previously charged with child deaths in 2019 and then again in March and was out on bail.
Additionally, more than a dozen of his followers have been taken into custody.
Kenyan President William Ruto said during a speech in Nairobi that Nthenge “pretends and postures as a pastor when in fact he is a terrible criminal.”
The U.S. State Department says more than 85% of Kenyans identify as Christian, though Ruto reportedly questioned the veracity of Nthenge’s teachings and said authorities would crack-down on “people who want to use religion to advance weird, unacceptable ideology.”
According to a tweet from the interior minister, the entirety of the forest in the eastern African nation is being treated as a crime scene.