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The Jonestown Massacre, 30 Years Later


It was 30 years ago Tuesday that more than 900 members of a religious cult lost their lives during a mass suicide known as the Jonestown massacre.

The tragedy took place at a commune in the jungles of Guyana, where the mostly American followers of cult leader Jim Jones went to live and work. Jones had promised his followers heaven on earth, but escapees described the compound as a prison camp.

A U.S. congressman from California who went to investigate Jonestown, Leo Ryan, was shot to death by cult members on an airstrip on November 18, 1978, along with a church defector and three members of the media.

Back at the compound, Jones, backed by armed guards, forced his followers to drink juice laced with cyanide in a suicide ritual. Elderly people and children were among the hundreds killed that day.

Jones was found shot in the head, though it is not clear whether he killed himself or if someone else pulled the trigger.

Survivors and relatives of the victims are marking the 30th anniversary of the massacre with a ceremony at a cemetery in California, where hundreds of victims are buried.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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