Mass graves of starvation cult exposed in Kenya
In the middle of a forest not far from Kenya’s coast, piles of fresh earth topped with crucifixes await the attention of forensic experts.
About 14 mass graves have so far been dug up and Hussein Khalid has spent the past four days watching people exhume dozens of bodies.
“The stench is unbearable,” he tells the BBC.
The dead are thought to have been members of the Good News International Church. It is believed they were persuaded to starve themselves in order to reach heaven before what they were told was going to be the end of the world.
Mr Khalid runs the rights organisation Haki Africa, which took the authorities to the grave sites at the end of last week after being tipped off by some locals.
The place is “quite hidden” inside Shakahola forest and he says that he and his team needed to cut back shrubs and bushes in order to drive there.
Eighty-nine bodies have been exhumed so far, but the final count could be much higher as the Red Cross has said 112 people have been reported missing.
Mr Khalid estimates that there are around 60 mass grave sites in the area and only a quarter of those have been examined.
Police say that 29 survivors have been found so far, but it seems that not all of them wanted to be rescued, so convinced they were about what they were told about the end of the world.
On Sunday, Mr Khalid came across a woman in her late 20s “looking extremely frail” with sunken eyes. But she did not want to be helped.
“When we tried to administer first aid to give her sips of water with glucose with a spoon, she completely refused.
She sealed her mouth shut and she was signifying that she doesn’t want any help,” Mr Khalid says, adding that the woman was now being treated in hospital. He also came across a man in his 40s who was able to talk. -BBC