(CNN) Kenyan police have exhumed the bodies of 21 people believed to be followers of a Christian cult that believed that if they died of starvation they would go to heaven.
Police near the coastal town of Malindi began exhuming the bodies on Friday and recovered seven bodies that day. They recovered 14 more bodies on Saturday, Detective Charles Kamau told Reuters on Sunday.
“This cruel blight on our conscience will lead to the perpetrator(s) of this atrocity against so many innocent souls not only being punished severely, but strict restrictions (including self-restraint) on every church, mosque, temple or synagogue going forward,” Interior Minister Githure Kindiki said.
He added that the entire 800-acre forest where the burials were found has been sealed and declared a crime scene.
Earlier this month, police rescued 15 members of the Good News International Church who worshiped there. Four of them died before reaching the hospital, police said.
The church’s leader, Paul Mackenzie, was arrested following a tip-off that there were shallow graves belonging to at least 31 of Mackenzie’s followers.
Local media, citing police sources, said McKenzie refused to eat or drink while in police custody.