'Satanic sect' kills seven during suspected 'exorcism' in Panama

17 January 2020, 11:45

Jose Gonzalez, left, follows his 5-year-old daughter, carried by a police officer, as they leave a hospital in Santiago, Panama,
Jose Gonzalez, left, follows his 5-year-old daughter, carried by a police officer, as they leave a hospital in Santiago, Panama,. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

A "satanic" sect has killed seven people and police have freed 14 others following a violent "exorcism" in a jungle community in Panama.

Police in Panama have raided Ngabe Bugle in the north-west of the country where it is believed a religious sect were performing rituals.

Prosecutors said, seven people, including a pregnant woman and her five children, were found dead following a suspected exorcism.

Officers discovered the bodies in a mass grave while police freed more than a dozen others who'd been tied up and beaten with wooden clubs and Bibles.

The victims included a woman, 32, and five of her children, aged one to 11. The sixth was a neighbour, 17.

Following the raid, ten people were arrested on suspicion of murder, including the pregnant woman's father.

Local prosecutor Rafael Baloyes said indigenous residents were rounded up by lay preachers and tortured, beaten, burned and hacked with machetes to make them "repent their sins."

Authorities were alerted to the violence by three villagers from the Caribbean coast community who escaped and made their way to a local hospital for treatment.

Investigators found an improvised "church" at a ranch where the 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," prosecutor Rafael 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 since Saturday when one of the church members had a vision.

"One of them said God had given them a message," Mr Baloyes said.

The leader of the Ngabe Bugle region Ricardo Miranda branded the sect "satanic" and said it went against the region's Christian beliefs.

The Ngabe Bugle are Panama's largest indigenous group and suffer from high rates of poverty and illiteracy.

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