By AT News Team, May 13, 2015:   Additional reports about the armed confrontation between police and an Adventist offshoot in Angola have revealed a different picture than the first news stories from the central African nation. Reports last month stated that the group had killed nine police officers who came to arrest Jose Kalupeteka, a fundamentalist preacher kicked out of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in 2001 who has predicted that Christ will return on December 31, 2015.

For two weeks the government would not allow any journalist into the remote area. Last week Reuters, the respected international wire service published a bulletin from one of their correspondents who was able to visit the site and interview local witnesses. Yesterday, Christianity Today released some additional information from several sources.

“The only traces of thousands of … sect members who were camped [at the site] are burnt-out vehicles, shacks pocked with bullet holes and bloodstains in soil,” stated Reuters. The police commissioner told Reuters that only 13 “snipers” were killed, but human rights activists told the news service that “more than 1,000 civilians were killed by the police and military in a siege aimed at crushing a group that has defied the government.”

Reuters pointed out that the ruling MLPA party fought a 27-year civil war with the opposition UNITA party that ended in 2002. President Eduardo dos Santos has ruled the country for 36 years and has recently been attempting to get a new start in terms of international reputation and relationships with the United Nations and other countries.

Local residents told Reuters that at least 3,000 members of the Light of the World group had been camping at the remote site. “I have not seen anyone who lived there since the incident,” the news service quoted a resident who asked not to be identified. “I don’t know where they are.”

“Local human rights activist Angelo Kapwatcha said in a report that the raid involved hundreds of police and soldiers armed with machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, according to a military source he interviewed,” said the Reuters bulletin. A May 1 article in The Guardian, a British newspaper, by human rights activist Raphael Marques de Morais reported that houses were burned down with the residents inside and members of the group were mowed down, according to military personnel he interviewed.

“Some of argued the incident should be taken to the International Criminal Court,” stated Christianity Today. The American evangelical journal also quoted a United States State Department report that despite the fact that Angola’s constitution protects freedom of religion, the government marginalizes religious minorities. “To legally operate, religious groups must gather 100,000 notarized signatures of individuals from at least 12 of Angola’s 18 provinces. Behind the government’s strict regulations [is] a desire to control upstart Pentecostal congregations [and] to combat witchcraft and illegal migration.”

Christianity Today reported that according to the U.S. State Department, representatives of the larger, established denominations are critical of the small, new sects. It is alleged that some of these groups are frauds designed to extract money from believers and misuse charitable donations.

Reuters quoted Paula Roque, a senior analyst for the Crisis Group; the incident and conflicting views of what happened “can be … an opportunity for the government [of Angola] to begin its own investigation and hold its security officers accountable, or it can proceed with a cover up that will only fuel frustrations and dissatisfaction.” The 255,000 members of the Adventist denomination in the country and their 3,000 congregations are caught in the middle of this situation.