Kenyan police arrest another pastor over ‘mass killing’ of church members

Kenyan police arrest another pastor over ‘mass killing’ of church members

The head of the New Life Prayer Centre and Church, Malindi, Kenya, Ezekiel Odero has been arrested and he would face criminal charges over mass killing of his followers.

The Kenya Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki said in a statement on Thursday.

He said that one of the country’s highest-profile pastors would face charges over the “mass killing of his followers” just days after the discovery of dozens of bodies linked to another church.

“The said church has been shut down. The over 100 people who were holed up at the premises have been evacuated and will be required to record statements,” he added.

Odero was arrested following an ongoing investigation into Paul Mackenzie Nthenge, the cult leader accused of the deaths of 98 people linked to his church.

It was learnt that police have not linked the two cases, and authorities have not provided further details about the nature of the allegations against Odero or his church.

Odero who was said to have adorn all-white garb and clutching a Bible, was transferred from the coastal town of Malindi where his church headquarters was located to the regional police headquarters in Mombasa for interrogation.

The wealthy televangelist attracts huge crowds to his church south of Malindi which has about 40,000 seat capacity.

Odero claims that “holy” scraps of cloth sold at his mega-rallies can heal sickness.

Reports revealed that the government had vowed to crackdown on fringe religious denominations after the discovery of dozens of bodies over the past week on a property near Malindi belonging to Nthenge.

The taxi driver-turned-preacher was alleged to have called on his followers to starve themselves to death as a path to God in a case that shocked the nation.

At least 22 people have been arrested over the gruesome saga so far.

It was said that more than half the bodies unearthed by investigators were of children, and police fear the death toll could rise as their search widens.

Kindiki regarded the case as “the clearest abuse of the constitutionally enshrined human right to freedom of worship.”

It was also gathered that efforts to regulate Kenya’s dizzying array of churches and ministries have failed in the past, despite high-profile incidents of cults and rogue pastors being involved in crime.

People expressed concern over how Nthenge was able to preach despite attracting police attention six years ago.

He was arrested in 2017 on charges of “radicalisation” after urging families not to send their children to school, saying education was not recognised by the Bible.

Nthenge was arrested again last month, according to local media, after two children starved to death in the custody of their parents.

He was released on bail of 100,000 Kenyan shillings ($700) but surrendered to police after a raid on his property in the Shakahola forest uncovered bodies.

Nthenge is due to appear in court on May 2.