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Monday, January 4, 1999 Published at 18:08 GMT

World: Middle East

US cult arrests in Israel

One of the cult members is taken to court

Israel is to deport 11 members of a doomsday cult of American Christians suspected of planning collective suicide in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Correspondent Paul Adams: "The group planned to provoke a shoot-out"
Three others have appeared before magistrates on suspicion that they were plotting acts of violence.

They were arrested on Sunday after investigations by a special police task force set up to deal with threats of violence by groups drawn to Jerusalem by a belief that Jesus will return at the end of the millennium.

Stephen Gibbs: Worldwide hunt ended in an affluent Jerusalem suburb
A police statement said: "The arrests were carried out to protect certain sectors of the Israeli population and members of the cult themselves who blindly follow a leader who is now overseas."

The group did not resist arrest. Local people said they had been "nice, quiet neighbours".

Apocalyptic cult

[ image: Children were amongst those taken away by police]
Children were amongst those taken away by police
The detainees belong to a group called Concerned Christians, an apocalyptic sect based in Denver, Colorado.

Israeli police say they were aware of the arrival of the cult members in November of last year and they had set up a special unit, working with the intelligence service Shin Bet, to monitor various millennial groups.

Around 60 members of the group abandoned their jobs and homes in the US several months ago amid reports that they had gone to Israel.

Members are reported to include both married and single people, white-collar professionals and unemployed workers. They range in age from infancy to 68.

Their leader, Monte Kim Miller, who has been described as charismatic and manipulative, has forecast that he will die in Jerusalem in the final days of December 1999 and believes only he and members of his flock will be saved.

Fear of mosque attack

[ image: Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque complex - a focus for extremists]
Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque complex - a focus for extremists
Israeli authorities are worried about possible attacks on Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque complex by Jewish and Christian extremists during the run-up to the millennium.

The mosques in the complex are built on the site of the ancient Jewish Temple and some Christian sects believe that the Temple will be rebuilt to accompany the return of the Messiah, which in turn means the existing mosques must be destroyed.

The complex, which also houses the Dome of the Rock, is the third holiest site in Islam.

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