Discovery of body sparks hunt for more mass graves of Ugandan sect

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Ugandan police yesterday found a body behind the house of a prominent sect leader, raising fears that another mass grave of murdered cult followers would be uncovered.

The latest find, in Rugazi, comes after police discovered 153 bodies on Friday under a building used by the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God in Buhunga, in the south-west of the country. Both finds were less than 50 miles from Kanungu, where about 500 cult members died when their church burned down on 18 March. Police, who had initially suspected mass suicide, realised they had a mass murder on their hands when it transpired that the church doors were locked from the outside.

The sect leader, self-styled prophet Joseph Kibwetere, and his assistant, Gredonia Mwerinda, are believed to have escaped and could be abroad.

Police yesterday stopped digging to await the arrival of investigators after they uncovered the arms from a corpse, thought to be that of a cult member, behind the house of "Father" Domici Kataribabo, who is himself believed to have died in the church fire. "We think there are other bodies from that hole and we think there are other holes," a local policeman said.

Ugandan police have clearly been overwhelmed by the enormity of their task. Many of the victims found on Friday were apparently clubbed, strangled or hacked to death, and some may have been poisoned. Some were thought to have died up to four months ago but the vast majority appeared to have been killed more recently,some just two weeks ago.

"The evidence is of violent death," said a local member of parliament, Brigadier Jim Muhwezi. "There were cracked skulls and chopped limbs. We think wherever there was a branch [of the cult] there could be mass graves." Like the cult members at Buhunga, Mr Kataribabo and dozens of his followers had abandoned the house at Rugazi to go to Kanungu days before the blaze., selling the property to his nephew.

The head of the sect, Mr Kibwetere, 68, is a failed politician who claimed to have heard a conversation between the Virgin Mary and Jesus in 1987 predicting that the world would be destroyed for not obeying the Ten Commandments.

Brigadier Muhwezi said some cult members - who had been asked to sell their possessions and give the proceeds to the church - had apparently demanded their money back when a prediction the world would end on 31 December, 1999 failed to come true. "When nothing happened on the 31st it appeared [the cult's leaders] had a problem," he said.

The solution appeared to have been to kill the unruly cult members. There were the bodies of 59 children in the three graves in Buhunga, including the body of a two-year-old.

"When they killed the mothers it goes without saying that they had to kill the children as well," Mr Muhwezi said.

"There could be more bodies; we will have to check the latrine, under the showers and in other rooms."