Kenya’s interior minister said Thursday 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.
Ezekiel Odero, the head of the New Life Prayer Centre and Church, “has been arrested and is being processed to face criminal charges related to the mass killing of his followers,” Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki said in a statement.
“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’s arrest coincides with an investigation into Paul Mackenzie Nthenge, a cult leader accused of the deaths of at least 98 people linked to his church.
Police haven’t linked the two cases or provided details about the allegations against Odero or his church.
Odero, dressed in his signature all-white garb and clutching a Bible, was transferred from the coastal town of Malindi, where his church is headquartered, to the regional police headquarters in Mombasa for questioning.
A wealthy televangelist who draws huge crowds — his church south of Malindi can seat 40,000 — Odero claims “holy” scraps of cloth sold at his mega-rallies can heal sickness.
The government had promised a crackdown on fringe church denominations in the mostly Christrian country after the discovery of dozens of bodies in the last week on a property near Malindi belonging to Nthenge.
The self-styled preacher is accused of urging his followers to starve themselves to death as a pathway to God. At least 22 people have been arrested so far.
The Associated Press reports that Kenyan President William Ruto has likened Nthenge to a terrorist, saying, “What we are seeing … is akin to terrorism,” adding that he “pretends and postures as a pastor when in fact he is a terrible criminal.”
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