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Guyana group to rebuild church tied to Jim Jones

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana >> Officials in Guyana are rebuilding a stately, colonial church destroyed by fire that once served as a base for U.S. cult leader Jim Jones.

Construction of the new Sacred Heart Church in the capital of Georgetown will begin Friday, church spokesman Ramsal Alli said Thursday.

The $450,000 church will be built in concrete — the previous one was wood — and is designed to hold 500 parishioners, 200 fewer than the original one, he said.

Alli declined to answer any questions related to Jones, who obtained permission to use the church in the mid-1970s to provide what turned out to be fake healing services.

On Nov. 18, 1978, Jones led more than 900 cult members — mostly Americans — into a jungle clearing where they drank cyanide-laced, grape-flavored punch while others were shot by guards loyal to Jones.

The original church was built in the late 1860s by Portuguese settlers.

Investigators have blamed the Christmas Day fire that destroyed the church six years ago on an electrical malfunction.

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