A police spokesman, Commander Elihu Ben-Onn, said last night: "They planned to carry out violent and extreme acts in the streets of Jerusalem at the end of 1999 to start the process of `bringing Jesus back to life'. The arrests were carried out to protect certain sectors of the Israeli population and members of the cult themselves, who blindly follow a leader who is overseas."
The apocalyptic sect, known as Concerned Christians, is based in Denver, Colorado. Israeli police and secret services have been watching for them since their leader, Monte Kim Miller, and 77 of his followers disappeared from their homes in October.
Mr Miller, 44, prophesied that he would die in Jerusalem in the final days of the 20th century. However, he was not among those arrested yesterday. Israeli sources said that the cult planned to provoke a shoot-out with the police. This would "lead them to Heaven".
The Americans, who had been under surveillance for a month, were arrested in a two-storey rented house in the western Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion. They did not resist. It is not known how many other members of the cult have reached Israel.
Israel expects up to four million Christian pilgrims next year. Security and psychiatric services are on the alert in case any try to provoke a catastrophe to bring back the Messiah.Reuse content