Voodoo Killing
A voodoo priest performs a ritual in Ouidah, Benin. Voodoo beliefs and practices are widespread in parts of West Africa, where people believe strongly in the power of spirits and the devil Reuters

At least five members of a religious cult have died of asphyxiation in Benin after they were told to burn incense and charcoal in prayer rooms as they waited for the end of the world. Several others were admitted to hospital in Adjarra town, near the capital Porto Novo, at the weekend.

"With the help of old cloths, we sealed off all of the exits to the prayer room before using incandescent charcoal and incense to prepare for the descent of the holy spirit," survivor Yves Aboua told news agency Reuters.

He explained church members were told to stay in their prayer rooms until Sunday (29 January) so that they would "not to be held accountable" when the world ended.

The sect, an anti-voodoo group called Very Holy Church of Jesus Christ of Baname, has thousands of followers in Benin. The leader of the sect, Vicentia Chanvoukini, is regarded as a god.

The sect opposes black magic practices, widespread in Benin. Members of the Baname church have often clashed with followers of other faiths in the West African nation, where Muslims and Christians have incorporated some voodoo practices in their beliefs.

The country has a national voodoo holiday , which falls on 10 January. On this day, people gather in the streets to slaughter animals, pray and visit sacred locations.