Dutch Prosecutors Investigate Cult

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) - Dutch prosecutors said Wednesday that they have opened an investigation into a cult whose leader has predicted imminent disaster in the Western world and said his followers may kill themselves.

Police began looking into the group Efraim after member parents kept five children home from school in the eastern town of Borne, anticipating the end of the world. Prosecutors said they were worried by reports that members would take their own lives if forecasts of doom didn't materialize.

"If he (God) doesn't come for us, we will go ourselves," the group's leader has been quoted as saying.

"In cooperation with the police we decided to take the reports seriously,” said Mischa Tol, spokesman for the public prosecutor's office in the eastern city of Dordrecht. "Mainly because of the concern that they could take their lives into their own hands."

The group's leader, who calls himself Elia, claims on a Web site to be a prophet and that "God spoke to me" and warned of imminent disaster in the Western world.

The group, which says it isn't a cult, has about 100 members, according to prosecutors.

Its leader, identified by Dutch media as J. van Geene, lives in the small village of Puttershoek, about 50 miles south of Amsterdam.

The group says it is searching for a bride for Jesus Christ ahead of the apocalypse and calls on followers "to respond to the invitation of the wedding" in return for eternal heaven.

On the Internet site, written in five languages, Van Geene predicts the end of the world is coming "very soon" and calls the Sept. 11 attacks "a sign from God."