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Kenya Takes New Look at "Cult Death"

FILE: Representative illustration of a grave. Taken May 18, 2019
FILE: Representative illustration of a grave. Taken May 18, 2019

The body of a British woman who died at the house of a controversial cult leader while on holiday in Kenya will be exhumed on Wednesday, the family's lawyer said.

Luftunisa Kwandwalla, 44, was visiting the coastal city of Mombasa when she met her death in August 2020, and was buried a day later, but her family has claimed foul play.

At the time, the cult leader Arif Mohamed Iqbal -- a self-confessed healer -- said the "devil" had killed the woman as he tried to exorcise her, according to court papers filed by the family.

The family said Arif could not explain how the devil had killed her, describing him as "lying and dangerous to vulnerable people".

The family is calling for police to investigate Kwandwalla's "mysterious sudden" death, claiming she was quickly interred to cover up evidence.

"The hurried burial of the deceased without allowing her family members to attend the burial and view the body has brought pain and anguish to the family who deserves to know what killed her," Kwandwalla's brother, Imran Admani, said in court papers.

An autopsy to determine the cause of her death is expected.

Kwandwalla arrived in Kenya in August 2019 to visit members of her husband's family. During her stay, she joined Iqbal's controversial cult, according to court filings.

She had been due to fly back to her home in the English city of Leicester but travel restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic prevented the trip.

Earlier this month, a Mombasa magistrate's court allowed the family to hire a private pathologist for the postmortem and ordered police to provide security during the exhumation.

So far, no one has been arrested in connection with the death.