Sect, Expecting End of World, Raises Suicide Fears

French secret services are keeping an eye on a sect whose members believe the world will end Oct. 24, a newspaper reported.

For the past two months, followers of the Neo-Phare apocalyptic sect have been entrenched in a semi-abandoned chalet in Nantes, and some observers fear they might turn to group suicide, said the Paris newspaper Le Figaro.

Sect members have stocked up on provisions to "prepare themselves for the last trip to Venus," the newspaper reported. They are convinced that the end of the world will be ushered in by a cataclysm on earth or the landing of flying saucers.

Their 36-year-old leader, known as Arnaud, apparently learned of this revelation in an esoteric text of Andrè Bouguenac, who uses language inspired by cabala and numerology.

Arnaud's revelation was regarded with skepticism by the rest of the sect members until last Sept. 11, when the leader claimed that he saw "a sign of the end of time" in the terrorist attacks.

A former sect member known as Anouk told the Parisian newspaper: "Inspired by the Bible, Arnaud wants to create the divine family of the apostles of the new world, born from the final cataclysm."

Some relatives of Arnaud's followers appealed to the Association for the Defense of Families against Sects, which in turn alerted the government.

General concern over the possibility of a collective suicide is based on recent actions by some followers of the group. In July one of them threw himself under a moving car, and two others leapt from the top of Clermont Castle.