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Uganda Authorities Search New Graves

By ANDREW ENGLAND
Associated Press Writer

Prisoners get ready for carrying bodies
AP/Jean-Marc Bouju [28K]

RUSHOJWA, Uganda (AP) - Ugandan authorities today unearthed a dozen new bodies from graves in a fourth compound connected to a Christian doomsday sect, and officials were questioning a former district official about the deaths of sect members in a fire.

In their latest search for victims of a secretive religious sect, police were concentrating on a hilltop village in southwestern Uganda where a neighbor said people would regularly ``vanish.''

Authorities said they had detained for questioning a former official in Kanungu sub-district where the church fire occurred two weeks ago.

Internal Affairs Minister Edward Rugumayo told The Associated Press he believed Rev. Amooti Mutazindwa ``has some useful information that will help police with their investigations.''

Cult leader's wife says he was a loving father

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

In an interview broadcast today from London, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni accused district and regional officials in general of suppressing intelligence reports on the activities of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God.

Authorities are pursuing the two main leaders of the movement - Cledonia Mwerinde and Joseph Kibwetere, an excommunicated Roman Catholic. The pair had predicted that the world would end last Dec. 31. When that didn't happen, authorities believe, sect members demanded the return of possessions they had surrendered to join the sect, rebelled, and were put down with brutal force.

The smell of rotting flesh hung in the air as prisoners from a nearby jail shoveled up the reddish earth in the abandoned compound of Joseph Nyamurinda, a sect member who disappeared with 17 family members three days before a March 17 fire swept through the sect's church in Kanungu, a nearby village, killing at least 330 people.

Bystanders look at exhumed bodies
AP/Jean-Marc Bouju [32K]

Authorities initially called the fire a mass suicide. But within days, investigators discovered six strangled, mutilated corpses in a latrine on the compound, triggering a murder investigation.

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.

That fire touched off an investigation into the sect, and authorities have since turned up more than 640 bodies burned or buried in mass graves in three sect compounds.

Officials believe most of the dead belonged to the cult - which had up to 1,000 members - though their identities remained unknown.

AP correspondent Craig Nelson says police are after the cult leader (266K)

Kensi Ntuaydubale, who lives very near the sect compound - a cluster of four simple buildings with tin roofs and almost nothing inside them - said that locals had long worried about what was happening there.

``Groups used to come from different areas and after some days they'd vanish,'' he said, adding that it was general knowledge within the village that ``many people'' had died. Others, however, thought people were dying of illnesses.

``People would die but no one would call their neighbors to help them,'' he said. Funeral rites are normally communal in Uganda, with the entire community joining in. The dead are normally buried in their family compounds. Ntuaydubale said police had been called to the compound at least twice, but that after an investigation late last year they were left alone.

Museveni, speaking on the British Broadcasting Corp. during a visit to London, said intelligence officers had filed reports on the Ten Commandments sect, but that regional officials ``sat on'' the reports.

A local resident watches removal of bodies
AP/Jean-Marc Bouju [23K]

He said he had ordered top government officials to begin an investigation into why the reports were suppressed.

On Wednesday, authorities finished excavating a mass grave hidden in the house of Dominic Kataribabo, an excommunicated Roman Catholic priest and a leader of the sect who is believed to have died in the fire. Eighty-one bodies were pulled from the mass grave, found buried under a concrete floor.

The bodies were examined briefly, then reburied.

Earlier this week, 74 mutilated and strangled bodies, many of them children, were unearthed from a mass grave in a small sugarcane field in Kataribabo's backyard.

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