Official cult death toll rises to 724

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The Independent Online

Inmate labourers have unearthed 80 bodies, nearly all children and women, at a hilltop compound of a Christian doomsday sect where neighbours said people regularly "vanished."

Inmate labourers have unearthed 80 bodies, nearly all children and women, at a hilltop compound of a Christian doomsday sect where neighbours said people regularly "vanished."

The latest find brought the known death toll of the secretive sect to 724, with a fifth site left to search, police said.

Thursday's investigation concentrated on the village of Rushojwa in the lush rolling hills of southwestern Uganda, home to a sect cluster of four tin-roofed buildings.

"Groups used to come from different areas and after some days they'd vanish," neighbour Kensi Ntuaydubale said, adding it was general knowledge within the village that "many people" had died.

Meanwhile, authorities said they had detained for questioning a former official in Kanungu subdistrict, where hundreds died in a fire at a makeshift church belonging to the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God two weeks earlier.

Internal Affairs Minister Edward Rugumayo said he believed Rev. Amooti Mutazindwa "has some useful information that will help police with their investigations."

Mutazindwa was transferred to a district in west-central Uganda more than a month ago.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni accused district and regional officials in general of suppressing intelligence reports on the activities of the Ten Commandments sect.

In Rushojwa, the smell of rotting flesh hung in the air as prisoners from a nearby jail shovelled up the red-brown earth in the abandoned compound.

By late afternoon, when the exhumation was over, the inmates had dug up the bodies of 33 women, 27 girls, 17 boys and three men. In addition, the skull of a juvenile was found.

The compound had belonged to sect member Joseph Nyamurinda, who disappeared with 17 family members three days before a March 17 fire swept through the sect's church in Kanungu, killing at least 330 people.

Nyamurinda and his family are all believed to have died in the fire in Kanungu, 20 miles to the southwest of Rushojwa, said Assuman Mugenyi, Uganda's chief police spokesman.

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