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Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
Priest who 'murdered' his flock
rugazi compound
Bodies were buried in the priest's garden
By BBC News Online's Emma Batha

One of the Ugandan cult leaders accused of massacring hundreds of followers may have picked up some of his ideas in America, according to friends.

Police have so far unearthed 155 bodies from the house and garden of Dominic Kataribabo, a defrocked Roman Catholic priest and key figure in the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God.

He wore his dog collar until the end, portraying himself as the model priest we knew

Attorney General Bart Katureebe
Mr Kataribabo joined the cult not long after returning from the United States where he obtained a PhD at a Jesuit college in Los Angeles.

Archbishop Paul Bakyenga, who had known Mr Kataribabo since 1965, said the priest had videos about a group he had met in the US which he understood to be similar to a millennialist cult.

The bishop said he thought there was ''something funny'' about the organisation and did not want to see the videos.

''I thought America had changed him,'' he added. ''He was quieter, not as exuberant as before he went. He seemed more deliberate in his talking and thinking.''

New ideas

Mr Kataribabo was a very well respected and popular priest before he joined the cult in the late 1980s.
Digger with mask
Diggers wear masks because of the stench
His friends included the Attorney General of Uganda, Bart Katureebe, who said he had tried in vain to get Mr Kataribabo to return to the church.

''It was after he came back from America that his problems started,'' said Mr Katureebe, who is MP for Rugazi, where the bodies have been discovered.

''I don't think America as such changed him, but he was exposed to fresh ideas.''

Mr Kataribabo, who left the US in 1987, earned his degree in religious studies from Loyola Marymount University, one of America's top Roman Catholic colleges.

Staff said he gained mostly Bs and appeared a ''pretty ordinary'' student.

Shock

The Attorney General said Mr Kataribabo had been a ''model priest'' and was the last person you would expect to join a cult.

He had a degree from Makere University and was rector of Kitabi Seminary where he was known as a good counsellor.

I don't know why he joined - that's a big puzzle for so many people

Archbishop Paul Bakyenga
Friends said he was a very friendly, intelligent man who was extremely interested in regional development.

''Clearly none of that prepared us for the claims that he was planning to kill anyone,'' added Mr Katureebe. ''This thing has come as such a big shock.

''I have known him from when I was born. He was one of the priests at my wedding. We're really shattered. We don't know what to believe.''

Apocalypse

Mr Katureebe told how his friend fell out with the Catholic Church after seeing visions of the Virgin Mary.

''He said the world was coming to an end because it had become so sinful.

Now that these horrible things are coming out, I don't think we knew him that well

Archbishop Bakyenga
''He said the Virgin Mary was interceding for the world and appearing to holy people and asking them to pray.

''I asked him, if you have seen an apparition why don't you allow the church to make the necessary investigations?

''But he told me there was no time because something was coming to shatter the world into small pieces.''

Strangled

Cult leaders are thought to have started killing followers when their prophecies that the world would end on the eve of the new millennium failed to come true.

Around 500 sect members burned to death in an inferno at their church in Kanungu.

Just days before the blaze, Mr Kataribabo was seen buying 40 litres of sulphuric acid, a chemical police suspect was used to fuel the fire.
Prisoner digging
Prisoners from the local jail are digging up the corpses

The victims found at is home in Rugazi are thought to have been murdered in the weeks before. Many appear to have been strangled.

Mr Katureebe said Mr Kataribabo had sold the house to his nephew shortly before the fire and ''must have known what was there''.

Neighbours said they had seen digging going on, but Mr Kataribabo told them the ditch in the garden was for a new latrine. He told his nephew that a second pit inside his house was for a refrigerator.

Police initially thought the 64-year-old priest had perished in the Kanungu blaze, but now believe he may be on the run with other sect leaders.

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Uganda's death cults
Click on the stories below for more on Uganda's doomsday cult.
Key stories:
Cult's quiet life
Priest who murdered his flock
The preacher and the prostitute
Story in pictures
Why East Africa?
More on cults
When devotion means death
'Why I joined a cult'
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See also:

20 Mar 00 | Africa
Analysis: Why East Africa?
18 Mar 00 | Africa
When devotion means death
20 Mar 00 | Media reports
Ugandan cult member's warning
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