A PREGNANT WOMAN, 5 OF HER KIDS AND OTHERS DIE WHILE PASTOR WAS CASTING OUT DEVIL
The bodies of seven people have been found in a mass grave in a local town area of Panama where members of a religious church sect were believed to be casting out devil, officials say.
The victims included a pregnant woman, 32, and five of her children, aged one to 11. The sixth was a neighbour, 17.
Fifteen other people were freed.
Ten people have been arrested on suspicion of murder.
The suspects and all victims were thought to belong to the Ngäbe-Buglé indigenous community.
The grave was discovered after three villagers escaped and made their way to a local hospital last weekend, prosecutor Rafael Baloyes said. They then alerted authorities about several families being held by an indigenous-run sect.
On Wednesday, police raided the community, located in a jungle region in north-west Panama some 250km (155 miles) from the capital Panama City.
“They were performing a ritual inside the structure.
In that ritual, there were people being held against their will, being mistreated,” said Mr Baloyes. “All of these rites were aimed at killing them if they didn’t repent their sins”.
Inside the makeshift church, officers found a naked woman, machetes, knives and a ritually sacrificed goat, Mr Baloyes said.
The site was controlled by a religious sect called the New Light of God, believed to have been operating in the region for about three months.
According to Mr Baloyes, the kidnapping and torture started last Saturday after one of the members claimed to have received “a message from God”. The victims were then kidnapped from their homes, beaten and killed.