Sat, Jan 18, 2020 - Page 6 News List

Panama arrests 10 for rituals that left seven people dead


Seven people were killed in a bizarre religious ritual in a Panamanian jungle community, where indigenous residents were rounded up by about 10 lay preachers and tortured, beaten, burned and hacked with machetes to make them “repent their sins,” authorities said on Thursday.

Police freed 14 members of the Ngabe Bugle indigenous group who had been tied up and beaten with wooden cudgels and Bibles.

Local prosecutor Rafael Baloyes described a chilling scene found by investigators when they made their way through the jungle to the remote Ngabe Bugle indigenous community near the Caribbean coast on Tuesday.

Alerted by three villagers who escaped and made their way to a local hospital for treatment earlier, police were prepared for something bad, Baloyes said, but added that they were still surprised by what they discovered at an improvised “church” at a ranch where a little-known religious sect known as “The New Light of God” was operating.

“They were performing a ritual inside the structure. In that ritual, there were people being held against their will, being mistreated,” Baloyes said.

“All of these rites were aimed at killing them if they did not repent their sins,” he said.

“There was a naked person, a woman,” inside the building, where investigators found machetes, knives and a ritually sacrificed goat, he added.

The rites had been going on since Saturday last week and had already resulted in deaths, Baloyes said.

About a 2km away from the building, authorities found a freshly dug grave with the corpses five children as young as one, their pregnant mother and a 17-year-old female neighbor.

“They searched this family out to hold a ritual and they massacred them, mistreated them, killed practically the whole family,” Baloyes said, adding that one of the suspects in the killing is the grandfather of the children who were slain.

All the victims, and apparently all the suspects, were members of the same indigenous community.

Ricardo Miranda, leader of the Ngabe Bugle semi-autonomous zone, called the sect “satanic” and said that it went against the region’s Christian beliefs.

“We demand the immediate eradication of this Satanic sect, which violates all the practices of spirituality and coexistence in the holy scriptures,” Miranda said.

The area is so remote that helicopters had to be used to ferry the injured out to hospitals for treatment.

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