Kenyan cult leader faces terrorism charges over mass starvation deaths

The self-proclaimed leader of an evangelical doomsday cult in Kenya has gone on trial in Mombasa, facing charges of terrorism for allegedly inciting more than 400 of his followers to starve themselves to death.

Self-proclaimed pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie appeared in court in the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa on Monday, along with 94 co-defendants.

The accused are also facing charges of murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, torturing children and cruelty in separate cases.

They all pleaded not guilty at a first hearing in January.

Mackenzie, who was arrested in April 2023, is alleged to have incited his acolytes to starve to death in order to "meet Jesus".

The remains of more than 440 people have been unearthed so far in a remote area inland from the coastal town of Malindi, in a case that has been dubbed the "Shakahola forest massacre".

Autopsies have found that while starvation appeared to be the main cause of death, some of the victims – including children – were strangled, beaten, or suffocated.

Previous court documents reported that some of the bodies had had their organs removed.

​Breach of security

Mackenzie, a former taxi driver, founded the Good News International Church in 2003.

He turned himself in on 14 April last year after police, acting on a tip-off, first entered Shakahola forest and found mass graves.

(with newswires)

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