Shakahola cult: Search, rescue of survivors to be extended to Tsavo park, CS Kindiki says

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki (centre) speaks after visiting the mass-grave site in Shakahola

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki (centre) speaks after visiting the mass-grave site in Shakahola, outside the coastal town of Malindi, on April 25, 2023.

Photo credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP

The search and rescue operation for survivors in Shakahola Forest is to be extended to Tsavo East National Park, the government has announced.

This will be done with the use of on ground and drone searches.

"It is clarified for the information of the public that the search and rescue operation for survivors will be extended to the fringes of the neighbouring Tsavo East National Park in the coming days using ground and drone searches," said the Cabinet Secretary for Home and National Administration, Kithure Kindiki.

The operation, which was launched last month, has been going on daily with the total number of people rescued reaching 90 yesterday.

Families searching for their missing relatives have been urging the government to use aircraft for the operation, but despite promises from the CS that this would happen soon, it has not happened.

The forensic team took a break yesterday as exhumations were suspended.

"Only the grave search and exhumation of the victims of the Shakahola massacre has been suspended.

"to allow for logistical arrangements for the post-mortem examination of the additional 123 bodies recovered during phase 2 of the exhumation exercise," CS Kindiki said.

The autopsies are expected to begin next Wednesday at Malindi Sub-County Hospital.

However, homicide detectives will resume grave searches and exhumations after the completion of the Phase 2 exercise, the CS said.

The number of bodies exhumed from mass graves in Shakahola on Thursday rose by eight to 235 as the investigation into cult leader Paul Mackenzie and the activities of his Good News International Church continued.

Forensic teams have been digging up graves for weeks in search of the remains of Mackenzie's followers, who he convinced to starve themselves to death to meet Jesus.

Police said the area was still a crime scene and a 24-hour curfew remained in place while the investigation continued.

Police also reported on Thursday that four people had been rescued - three female and one male adult. Two of the women and the man were stable, while the third woman was in critical condition, they said.

The number of people arrested is 32, while the number of people reported missing is 613.