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A pregnant woman and six children were tortured and killed by a Panama sect in a bizarre religious ritual. Another 14 members of the Ngabé Buglé indigenous group who were tied up and beaten with wooden cudgels and Bibles were freed by police. The communities most affected by poverty in Panama are the Ngobe -Buglé with 92 percent of the poor; the Embera-Wounan with 80 percent and the Kuna with 65 percent.
A little-known religious sect known as “The New Light of God” was operating at an improvised church on a ranch. “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.
The rites had been going on since Saturday, and had already resulted in deaths.
CNN reports that authorities said the bodies of three boys and three girls -- two 9-year-olds, plus others aged 1, 3, 11 and 17 -- were found in the grave. The 32-year-old mother of five of the children, who was between four and six months pregnant, was also found dead in the grave.
The victims were killed for not repenting for their sins, the region's public prosecutor, Rafael Baloyes, told reporters. He added that the cult had been active for around three months but had not harmed people until this attack — prompted when one of its members believed they received a message from God.
"It appears they were members of a religious cult that carried out rituals and they were apparently responsible for the crime," Baloyes said in the statement.
“They searched this family out to hold a ritual and they massacred them, mistreated them, killed practically the whole family,” said Baloyes, adding that one of the suspects in the killing is the grandfather of the children who were slain.
As the Guardian reports, it was not clear what belief or affiliations the New Light of God church has. A well-established evangelical church known as Luz del Mundo said in a press statement that it had no ties to the case.