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Senate wants choppers for Shakahola rescue operation

The Senate has asked the government to employ the use of helicopters to rescue victims of Mr. Paul Mackenzie’s cult-like teachings who are still fasting to death in the Shakahola forest in Kilifi County.

Led by Senate Speaker Amason Jeffa Kingi, the Senate Committee on Emergencies lauded the government for having begun using drone cameras in the operation but noted that helicopters would reach victims of the cult faster.

Mr. Kingi, who led the committee to the rescue and recovery operation on Saturday, said the immediate concern should be to rescue as many people as possible, hence the need to upscale the rescue mission.

He said while it was laudable that the government had started using drone cameras to locate the victims, it would not be easy to access them immediately.

“The drone will tell you there is someone somewhere, but you may not be able to get there immediately. Therefore, it is the feeling of the Senate that we need to get choppers to carry out aerial combing of this area so that if you locate any life, the chopper can easily land and rescue that person,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by Mombasa Senator Mohamed Faki, who asked the government to increase the number of officers carrying out the operation as well as employ modern technology.

Kingi, who was governor when Mackenzie closed his church in Malindi and relocated to Shakahola, appeared to be defending himself when he said that the controversial preacher was not suspected of committing atrocities in the forest as he had gone there as a farmer.

“Mackenzie did not initially come here as a pastor, but he came to look for a farm, and that is why he was welcomed and was allowed to get into the forest; whether legally or illegally is up to the investigating agencies,” he said.

“The locals knew that Mackenzie was in the forest, but they had no suspicion because they knew he had come as a farmer and did not know the kind of activities he was engaging in.

Coast Regional Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha told journalists that following the use of drones, the officers had been able to rescue four more people within the forest and that one body had been recovered by the time she was addressing the media.

“The government has increased the number of security officers together with aerial surveillance in the operation, and that is why we managed to rescue four more people,” she said.

So far, 110 bodies have been retrieved from the forest, and 44 people have been rescued.

By Emmanuel Masha 

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