Doomsday cult members arrested

Police in the Spanish Canary Islands have arrested 19 members of a religious movement accusing them of attempting mass suicide for the second time in a week.

Regional officials said the 19 were detained overnight at a farm owned by the alleged leader of the mainly-German cult.

Police were quoted as saying those detained were planning to torch themselves. The arrested included three children and all were German nationals.

The alleged cult leader, Doctor Heide Fittkau-Garthe, was arrested last Wednesday after police raiding her home said they found a cocktail of poisons ready for a mass suicide by 32 followers.

Fittkau-Garthe, 57, a German psychologist who specialised in executive stress relief, has been charged with attempted murder and inducement to suicide.

The sect members reportedly believed the world was going to end last Thursday and wanted to kill themselves before their bodies were picked up by a spaceship.

Fittkau-Garthe’s devotees said in interviews with police psychologists that they were convinced that the sect leader was “touched by the hand of God.”

Fittkau-Garthe has lived in the Canary Islands for the last 10 years.

Police said the sect, called the Isis Holistic Centre, was an offshoot of the Brahma Kumari sect which has countless followers in India and up to 800,000 in the United States.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday January 13, 1998.
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