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53 More Bodies Found at Cult Leader’s Home

From Times Wire Services

Police pulled 53 more bodies Wednesday from the house of a leader of a doomsday cult that is suspected of killing hundreds of its members.

The house and garden of Dominic Kataribabo of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God have so far yielded 155 dead, some strangled, some poisoned.

The latest exhumations bring to about 800 the number of corpses, among them more than 100 children, found in three mass graves and a burned-out church in southwestern Uganda.

Police believe that the cult’s leaders began systematically slaying their followers after a prediction that the world would end Dec. 31 proved false.

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Police pathologist Thaddeus Burungi said some of the victims had been strangled or stabbed to death and that liver tissue samples showed some had been poisoned.

Investigators found the bodies in the house after Kataribabo’s nephew, Bart Bainomukama, told them his uncle had said he was digging a pit for a refrigerator. On Monday, authorities found the remains of 74 people in a small field behind Kataribabo’s house.

The chief of the police investigation, Godfrey Bangirana, told Reuters news agency that police have enough evidence to charge Kataribabo with murder--if they find him.

Authorities believe that he may have died March 17 in a fire that engulfed the chapel of a compound used by the cult in nearby Kanungu. They are pursuing the two main leaders of the movement, Keredonia Mwerinde and Joseph Kibwetere, who are believed to be on the run.

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Burungi said the Rugazi bodies had been buried for less than six months, but added that it was difficult to determine precisely when the victims were killed.

As he spoke, hired workers and prisoners carried out bodies and body parts. One prisoner carried a child’s head and gently placed it on a virtually unrecognizable small torso.

A spokesman said police would dig at five other sites and revisit Kanungu as they try to determine what happened. One theory is that some cult members, who had been asked to sell their possessions and give the proceeds to the church, demanded their money back when the world did not end.

In terms of deaths, the killings have begun to approach the 1978 Jonestown massacre in the jungles of Guyana. In that incident, Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones convinced hundreds of his followers to drink a cyanide-laced punch. Some tried to escape and were shot. More than 900 died.

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