Apocalyptic US cult flees to Israel

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MEMBERS OF an apocalyptic cult from the United States who disappeared after their leader predicted the destruction of the city of Denver have made their way to Israel, according to Israeli police. Press reports suggest that the cult, Concerned Christians, might try to commit mass suicide at the end of the millennium.

The cult leader, Monte Kim Miller, a marketing manager from Colorado, was expected to lead his group either to Mexico or to Jerusalem. About 60 members of the cult have abandoned their homes since Mr Miller predicted that an earthquake would destroy Denver in October. When that failed to materialise, he disappeared and his telephone, which had acted as a switchboard for cult members in Colorado and across the United States, was switched to an answer machine.

Mr Miller, 44, claims to be able to speak in the voice of God and has made a series of threatening statements about the end of the world and dying in accordance with divine will. He prophesied that he would die in the streets of Jerusalem in December 1999 and be resurrected three days later.

At 6ft 5in, Mr Miller has been described as a charismatic figure capable of enrapturing people who come into his presence. After accumulating more than $500,000 in debts, he sought bankruptcy protection from the courts a year ago but appears to have been bailed out by his supporters.

His message predicting a Denver earthquake was said to be a mixture of biblical history and numerology, laced with an underlying current of anti-US government sentiment.

A retired Denver police officer whose 16-year-old daughter left the sect three years ago says armed men came to his house looking for her. She has since been dispatched to a military school out of state.

Jerusalem hoteliers hope the city will be filled with pilgrims wanting to see in the millennium. But some tour agents have cancelled because of recent suicide-bomb attacks in Jerusalem. In the past three years there have been six suicide bombings within a mile of The Independent's office, killing more than 70 people.

The Israeli authorities have set up a special committee to deal with messianic groups which might cause disturbances in the lead-up to the millennium. After each suicide bombing the army stations soldiers at bus stops and in the markets, but it is clearly impossible to stop those determined to kill themselves.

Police said they were not unduly concerned by the arrival of the Concerned Christians. Linda Menuhin, an Israeli police spokeswoman, asked: "This cult, how many worshippers do they have? Tens. It's really nothing."