NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec. 14 (AP) - An investigation by Kenyan police and FBI agents into the death of an American Roman Catholic priest suggests he committed suicide, officials said Thursday, a theory rejected by the late missionary's friends and colleagues who believe he was killed for his criticism of the Kenyan government.

Officials close to the investigation into Father John Kaiser's death, who asked not to be identified further, said they did not expect to reach a conclusion, only to present their findings. But they insisted there was no evidence that Kaiser was killed. Instead, they said, his behavior in the days and hours prior to his death was consistent with someone who was suicidal.

Church officials are aware that the investigation was leaning toward suicide as the probable explanation for the mysterious death, said Bernard Phelan, the vicar general of Mill Hill Missionaries, Kaiser's religious order.

But Phelan insisted that Kaiser was not the type of man who would commit suicide. In fact, Kaiser had written Phelan after receiving anonymous death threats warning that Kenyan government agents may try to kill him and make it look like a suicide.

Kaiser's death provoked indignation from human rights groups in Africa, Europe and the United States, and the U.S. Congress passed a concurrent resolution demanding an FBI investigation and a U.S. State Department report of its findings to Congress on Dec. 15.

A very brief interim report was expected to be submitted to Congress Friday, but investigators said a full report would probably not be completed until early next year because forensic evidence was still being processed.

Investigators expected the death to be declared ``unresolved'' and that the active investigation would end because there were no more leads to follow.

Kaiser, 67, was found dead along a busy highway Aug. 24, with a gunshot wound to the back of his head. His shotgun was found laying by his side. The first Kenyan detectives at the scene immediately declared Kaiser's death a homicide, staged to look like a suicide.

Kaiser, from Perham, Minnesota, was well known in Kenya for his crusading human rights work, and he was not shy about accusing some of Kenya's most powerful politicians of being responsible for widespread political violence in 1991-92 that was carried out under the guise of tribal fighting.

In recent years, he also helped a number of teen-age girls persue private rape cases against Cabinet member Julius Sunkuli. Kaiser died just a week before a hearing on one of the cases, and he was reportedly helping additional girls bring new cases against the official.

Sunkuli has denied all accusations of wrongdoing, and the girls have since withdrawn their cases. Sunkuli has publicly acknowledged being questioned in connection with Kaiser's death, but he has refused further comment.

Martha Koome, chairwoman of the Kenyan chapter of the Federation of Women Lawyers who worked with Kaiser on the rape cases, said that as a friend and colleague, she could not believe that the priest committed suicide.

``I knew him as a very strong Christian who practiced his beliefs as a Catholic,'' Koome said. ``Every day we are losing confidence with our security system; it's really sad if they try to say he killed himself.''

A post mortem report by a Kenyan pathologist determined that Kaiser was killed by a gunshot to the back of his head ``fired from a distance,'' Phelan told The Associated Press, quoting a copy of the document during a telephone interview from London.

Phelan said he had also obtained a video tape of the scene of the death that showed it would be nearly impossible for Kaiser to have shot himself.

The investigation has been played out in the Kenyan press, where Kaiser's erratic behavior the night he died, including a mysterious six-hour, nighttime drive around central Kenya, has been well documented.

But why he left the safety of a bishop's house outside of Nairobi after he complained of receiving death threats remains a mystery. How his pickup truck became damaged and where blue-green paint on a damaged fender came from are questions that remain unanswered.

Investigators, speaking on condition of anonymity, have raised the suicide theory since the outset of the case. Friends and colleagues interviewed by investigators say questions have focused on Kaiser's mental state. While they wait to hear the FBI's official report to Congress, most reject the suicide explanation.

``The suicide theory would in a way be suitable for the people who are responsible for the murder of John Kaiser,'' Phelan said. ``We don't know about the U.S. attitude, but we imagine that the death of one missionary in Kenya is not important for U.S. strategic policy.''

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