KAMPALA, Uganda -- Struggling with a lack of equipment after uncovering a string of mass graves, police are regrouping before tackling yet another compound where more victims of a doomsday cult may be buried.
The death toll from the mass killing now stands at 924, after police raised the number who died when a cult church was set ablaze with hundreds of members sealed inside. Since then, mass graves at three other compounds have uncovered more bodies.
The government called a day of prayer Sunday to ''console surviving relatives and assure the country that action is being taken in pursuit of the criminal perpetrators.''
Government and religious leaders will attend a memorial service Sunday in Kanungu, the village where the cult slaying was first revealed with the church inferno.
While Ugandan authorities promised to apprehend the perpetrators of the stabbings, burnings and stranglings, investigators showed no signs of being able to track down sect leaders or even of being able to confirm which -- if any -- survived.
Investigators indefinitely postponed plans Friday to search a fifth sect compound, deep in a rainforest near the Ruwenzori Mountains along the Congolese border. Police said they would wait until they had proper equipment.
Sarah Kiyingi, deputy minister for internal affairs, said the search for bodies was suspended temporarily because police lack proper gear for exhuming bodies.
Authorities have come under criticism in Uganda's press for using inmate labor to dig up the bodies, with some newspapers faulting police for failing to give inmates rubber gloves and other protective equipment.
Internal Affairs Minister Edward Rugumayo said investigators want prisoners to be properly dressed and well-prepared.
In Kanungu, forensic investigators examined a cemetery overlooking the main compound of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, to try to determine if any graves there might contain more than one body. Finding nothing suspicious, they did not dig.
Police then retreated to the faraway capital of Kampala to await pathology reports on some of the bodies already discovered, police pathologist Thaddeus Barungi said.
Authorities initially reported at least 330 charred bodies were found inside the ruins of a makeshift church in the sect's main compound. On Friday, they raised the toll to 530 in what was believed to have been a gasoline-fueled inferno in the sealed church.
Hundreds of bodies subsequently found at three other sites apparently were killed after what had been the cult's prediction that the world would end Dec. 31. Some victims appeared to have been knifed or strangled. Hundreds were children, although the devastation at the cult church and the possibility of more graves means a precise count will never be known.
Police spokesman Eric Naigambi said police have started trying to compile a list of the missing.
''We are trying to create a reliable database on who perished at the hands of these killers,'' he said.
''We have found out that many people who lost their relatives are fearing to talk about it,'' Naigambi said. ''They knew that their relatives had told them they were going to heaven.''
The toll surpasses the November 1978 Peoples Temple tragedy at Jonestown in the jungles of Guyana. The Jonestown mass suicide and killings claimed 913 lives, including that of U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan, journalists and a few defectors shot to death as they tried to board a flight out.
Ugandan police are pursuing international arrest warrants for Joseph Kibwetere, Credonia Mwerinde and three other suspected cult leaders. It was not clear if any or all of them escaped the killings or the fire that followed.
Ugandan police have detained a second person for questioning in connection with the deaths. Police said the man detained had family members who were followers of the cult but gave no further details.
The cult leaders drew largely on disaffected Roman Catholics in Uganda, leading many to give up their land to take up a strict doctrine of fasting, silence and prayer. At least one leader was an excommunicated Catholic priest.
Stanley Kenyatta, a member of Uganda parliament for the Rukungiri district in the area of the killings, said Friday he had been told the sect had branches in Tanzania and Rwanda as well, with plans to move into Kenya.
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