The death toll in an investigation into a Kenyan cult suspected of encouraging adherents to starve themselves to death increased to 226 on Wednesday after 15 additional bodies were discovered, according to authorities.
Investigators are scouring the forest sanctuary of the Good News International Church, located near the city of Malindi on the Indian Ocean.
Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, its founder and a former taxi driver turned preacher, is accused of encouraging followers to starve themselves to death “to meet Jesus.”
“Following today’s exercise, 14 bodies were exhumed and one was found in the forest,” regional commissioner Rhoda Onyancha said.
She reported that another individual was discovered alive by rescue teams.
According to investigators, 112 autopsies have been performed so far, and the majority of them indicate that the deceased perished of starvation.
Others, including infants, exhibit signs of strangulation, beating, or suffocation.
Some of the corpses had their organs removed, according to court documents filed last week, and investigators allege the suspects engaged in forced harvesting of body parts.
However, Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki urged caution, telling reporters that “we are investigating this theory.”
On Saturday, Onyancha reported that 26 individuals, including Mackenzie and a “enforcer gang” assigned with guaranteeing no one broke their fast or escaped the forest hideout alive, had been arrested.
President William Ruto established a commission of inquiry into the deaths and a task force to evaluate regulations governing religious organizations in response to the tragedy that has stunned Kenyans.