(Malindi) The autopsy and identification of more than a hundred bodies found in a forest in southeastern Kenya, where followers of a sect gathered, began Monday morning, the minister announced. Interior Kithure Kindiki.

“The process of autopsying the bodies begins immediately,” Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki told reporters outside the morgue of the district hospital in the coastal town of Malindi, calling the operations a “crucial step. “.

“This process should take about a week, if all goes well,” he estimated.

DNA swab identification operations are being carried out simultaneously, the full results of which may not be known for “months”, added the head of the national forensic services, Dr Johansen Oduor.

A total of 109 people, the majority of them children, died in the Shakahola forest where followers of a sect called the International Church of Good News gathered, according to a still provisional report.

Searches for bodies and mass graves in this forest have been “temporarily halted” due to heavy rains, Kindiki said on Monday.

Autopsies should determine the causes of death.

But “preliminary reports we are getting indicate that some of the victims may not have starved to death,” Kindiki said on Friday, noting that some bodies bore wounds.

Shocked after the revelation of what is now called the ‘Shakahola Forest Massacre’, Kenya saw the case take an unexpected twist on Thursday with the arrest of one of the country’s most famous pastors, Ezekiel Odero. , suspected of being linked to it.

“There is credible information linking the exhumed bodies […] to Shakahola” with “several innocent and vulnerable followers [of the Odero church, editor’s note] who have died,” say prosecutors in a court document seen Friday. by AFP.

The two pastors, currently detained, are due to appear in courts in two different cities on Tuesday.

President Wiliam Ruto’s government on April 24 promised action against those who “use religion to advance a shady and unacceptable ideology”, likening them to “terrorists”.

The head of state will announce this week the creation of “a working group to deal with […] the way in which we regulate religious activities in our country,” Mr. Kindiki announced on Monday.

He will be in charge of studying how to preserve “the sacred right to freedom of worship, opinion and belief”, without however allowing “criminals to abuse this right to injure, kill, torture and starve people”. , he added.

A predominantly Christian country, Kenya has 4,000 different “churches”, according to official data.