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French Cult Leader Bourdin Dies

March 19, 1998

PARIS (AP) _ Gilbert Bourdin, a cult leader and self-proclaimed messiah who said he shielded the world from extraterrestrial invasions, has died. He was 72.

Bourdin died overnight Wednesday in the castle he built in Castellane, a town south of Grenoble. He had suffered for several years from diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

From his Mandarom cult’s mountain retreat in the southern Alps, Bourdin at times referred to himself as the ``Cosmic Christ″ and at others as ``Hamsah Manara,″ which means ``god among men″ in Sanskrit.

A former teacher from the French Caribbean island of Martinique, Bourdin founded the Mandarom cult in 1969. Followers are strict vegetarians, wear loose-fitting tunics, shave their heads and tend gardens at the Castellane castle.

A 1996 French parliamentary report said the cult had engaged in ``insidious recruitment″ practices and cited a police investigation of rape accusations brought against Bourdin by five former cult members. He was jailed for two weeks, but no formal charges were brought.

Information on survivors and funeral arrangements was not immediately available.

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