'Diabolic' Cult Leaders Decried at Uganda Service

From Times Wire Services

Thousands of townspeople gathered on a hilltop soccer field Sunday to mourn more than 900 people killed in a doomsday sect massacre.

Dignitaries joined residents of Kanungu and nearby villages in southwestern Uganda to deplore the deaths of 924 members of a reclusive Christian-based sect who authorities say were murdered by their leaders.

At the memorial service, Ugandan Vice President Wandira Specioza Kazibwe called the architects of the deadliest cult tragedy in modern history "diabolic, malevolent criminals masquerading as holy and religious people."

Kazibwe said she believed that the cult leaders were on the run. "I believe they are still alive. The whole world has to help us catch them," Kazibwe said.

A March 17 blaze inside the chapel of the sect's secretive compound in Kanungu killed as many as 530 sect members. Authorities initially termed the deaths a mass suicide, but the discovery of the bodies of six slain men in a compound latrine soon shifted that assessment to murder.

Since then, mass graves at three other compounds linked to the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God have yielded hundreds more bodies, many stabbed and strangled. The pungent scent of rotting bodies emanating Sunday from a latrine in the main Kanungu compound suggested that the toll could still rise.

Another suspected mass grave linked to the cult has yet to be searched.

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