Uganda president blames officials as child toll rises

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The Independent Online

Ugandan police made their first arrest yesterday as 81 more mutilated bodies - mostly women and children - were dug from another mass grave at a house formerly used by a Christian doomsday cult.

The latest find brings to 900 the number of cult members believed to have been slaughtered by their leaders.

Most of the corpses had been dumped in a grave in a small yard behind a house formerly occupied by the Restoration of the Ten Commandments sect, 600 of whose followers died in an inferno at a church in Kanungu on 17 March.

Yesterday's discovery was the fourth mass grave unearthed since the mysterious fire prompted police to start digging at sites used by the sect.

As with the previous finds, the dead appeared to have been murdered less than a month ago, and again, most appeared to have been strangled. Some still had ropes around their necks.

Cult members had abandoned the house at Rushowja in the remote highlands of south-west Uganda, to go to Kanungu, days before the church fire, local people said.

Uganda has arrested a local official meanwhile, for allegedly suppressing warnings about the cult before at least 800 of its followers died. The president, Yoweri Museveni, said in London that intelligence reports on the cult had never reached him or senior security officials.

"Some intelligence officers filed reports saying that this is a dangerous group, but at one level it was not forwarded, it was just ignored," Mr Museveni said. Regional administrators sat on reports about the sect, which exploded from obscurity after the Kanungu fire.

President Museveni said an inquiry would examine why the intelligence reports were not forwarded, but the group's "cover that they were religious people" explained why the authorities in the heavily populated area did not notice the disappearance of hundreds of their followers.

Uganda's internal affairs minister, Edward Rugumayo, said police had arrested Reverend Amooti Mutazindwa, an assistant district commissioner in the south-west, for allegedly failing to pass on a report that suggested the cult posed a threat. No other arrests have yet been made in connection with the deaths.

Investigators believe they have found the body of Dominic Kataribabo, a defrocked Catholic priest who was one of the cult's leaders, but there is no sign of his colleague, Joseph Kibwetere, who is alleged to have disappeared with another of the cult's co-founders, Credonia Mwerinde, and 17 family members shortly before the killings were discovered.

Police found 155 bodies in the garden and under the floors of Kataribabo's house in Rugazi.

Five former communes run by the movement are being searched, and the fear is that more bodies may be found.