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Monday 11 December 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Google Maps Veraguas province in west Panama

Bodies of six children and pregnant woman found in mass grave following 'exorcism' in Panama

Ten suspected members of a religious sect, including a child, have been arrested

THE BODIES OF seven people, including six children and a pregnant woman, have been discovered in a mass grave in Panama.

The discovery was made in a remote area close to where authorities raided an obscure religious sect a day before the find.

The remains of six children aged between one and 17-years-old and a woman who was between four and six months pregnant were found at the site near Veraguas province, west of Panama City.

The pregnant woman was the mother of five of the children, the statement said, though it was unclear how or when they died.

Ten suspected members of the sect, including a child, were subsequently arrested. They are expected to appear in court today or tomorrow.

One of those arrested is the father of the pregnant woman found in the grave, a source close to the investigation told the AFP news agency.

BBC reports that authorities believe the religious sect performed an exorcism on the victims in the Ngäbe-Buglé region in the north-west of Panama.

It quotes senior prosecutor Rafael Baloyes as saying: “They were performing a ritual inside the structure. In that ritual, there were people being held against their will, being mistreated. All of these rites were aimed at killing them, if they did not repent their sins.”

On Wednesday, authorities reported the rescue of 15 people who had been held by a religious sect in Ngäbe-Buglé, a remote area populated by indigenous communities about 250km from Panama City.

“The timely intervention of the Special Forces of the National Police prevented the murder of another 15 people,” the prosecutor’s office said.

The director general of the national police, Alexis Munoz, said the rescued people had shown signs of mistreatment by members of the sect, which investigators said goes by the name of “The New Light of God”.

“They were trying to indoctrinate them,” said Munoz.

The discoveries come after the 5 December arrests of 17 foreign nationals, alleged members of another religious sect, in an operation carried out in the coastal town of San Carlos, about 70km west of Panama City.

© AFP 2020. Contains reporting from Stephen McDermott.

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