, LUANDA, April 23- Twenty two people died after police clashed with members of a religious sect in central Angola last week, local media reported on Wednesday, quoting police sources.
On April 16, police raided a village in the Huambo region to arrest Julino Kalupeteca, the leader of the Seventh Day Light of the World Church, police chief Paulo Gaspar de Almeida told local news agency ANGOP.
Clashes broke out as the sect’s members tried to resist the arrest of their leader leaving nine policemen dead along with 13 members of the sect, the police chief said, adding that Kalupeteca was eventually arrested.
The religious group is considered illegal in Angola.
“The 13 dead civilians are the people who opened fire. They were a part of the leader Kalupeteka’s security detail and aimed to neutralise and destabilise the police operation,” Almeida said.
The sect, which predicts the end of the world in 2015 and encourages its followers to live in seclusion, is a dissident branch of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and has 3,700 followers in Angola, according to ANGOP.
While the Angolan state officially recognises 83 Christian churches, there exist nearly 1,200 other religious organisations, including many cults, according to the culture ministry.
The country with a population of around 24 million is majority Catholic, a legacy of Portuguese colonisation.
But evangelical churches are gaining more and more followers as evidenced by the building of giant cathedrals, like those seen in Latin America.