Poisoned tea suspected in deaths of 7 from sect

Buffalo News/May 24, 2002

Harare, Zimbabwe -- Seven members of a religious sect in Zimbabwe, including a 4-year-old boy, died after drinking tea suspected of having been poisoned, police said Thursday.

Forty-seven other people were taken ill after drinking the brew Sunday.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said foul play was suspected. He said traces of a pesticide were found in containers used to make tea for a gathering of the Johanne Marange Apostolic Church near the town of Nyazura, 120 miles east of Harare.

The sect, which has followers across Zimbabwe, bases its teachings on Christianity and on traditional African beliefs in ancestral spirits and the powers of tribal healers.

Forensic tests were being carried out, Bvudzijena said. No arrests had been made.

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