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Death Toll Surpasses 300 as Bodies of Kenyan Pastor’s Starvation Cult Victims Continue To Be Exhumed

Paul Makenzie Nthenge
FILE - Police and local residents load the exhumed bodies of victims of a religious cult into the back of a truck in the village of Shakahola, near the coastal city of Malindi, in southern Kenya on April 23, 2023. The number of people who died after a Kenyan pastor ordered his followers to starve to death in order to meet Jesus is at more than 300, authorities said Tuesday June 13, 2023, and the death toll is expected to rise as more exhumations are planned. (AP Photo, File)

Bodies of victims to Kenyan pastor Paul Makenzie Nthenge and his starvation cult continue to be discovered. The death toll has now surpassed 300.

The total of known victims rose to 303 after 19 more bodies were discovered in a mass grave in a forested area of Nthenge’s vast property in the Kilifi County of Kenya, which Nthenge had reportedly purchased under the guise of learning how to farm. 

Authorities expect the number of victims to rise, as they have more exhumations planned. Local journalists told the Associated Press that 613 missing persons had a connection to Nthenge’s Good News International Church.

Nthenge was taken into custody in April after four people died under his instructions to starve themselves in order to “meet Jesus.” 

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The concerned community members who alerted the police reportedly characterized the victims as “brainwashed.” Police said the victims had been “radicalized.” 

11 other victims were rescued at that time, most of them emaciated and in critical need of medical attention. 

A month previous, Nthenge was charged in connection with the deaths of two toddlers who had starved. The children’s parents were attenders of Good News International Church. Nthenge was released on bond after being charged with those two deaths.

Shortly after Nthenge was arrested and charged in April, authorities began searching Nthenge’s property after being alerted to the possibility that it was the resting place for his many victims. Within a week, 39 bodies had been discovered. 

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The scope of Nthenge’s deadly influence in the area has come as a shock to many, including retired Anglican Bishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa, whose home is near the area.