Seven people, including six children and a pregnant woman, were killed in what media outlets are describing as a “ritualistic killing” in a remote part of Ngäbe-Buglé in Panama, according to CNN. The woman was mother to five of the children, and the other was a teen neighbor. One of the people who participated in the murder was the kids’ grandfather.
The mother of five was 32, and the children were between the ages of 1 and 17. The youngest was 1.
Another 15 people were rescued from captivity after the discovery of the mass grave where the bodies were kept. Ten members of the cult responsible were arrested, according to Rolando Mirones, Ministro de Seguridad Pública.
Authorities were made aware of suspicious activity when local inhabitants alerted them to the fact that various families were being held against their will in a church where the three-month-old cult, who call themselves “La Nueva Luz de Dios,” gathered.
Hoy en la Comarca Ngäbe Buglé, 10 miembros de una secta fueron capturados y puestos a disposición de las autoridades. En el lugar se rescataron a 15 personas que estaban privadas de libertad, quienes fueron trasladados para recibir atención médica. #TeCuidamosPanamá @SENANPanama pic.twitter.com/wM8NEUmryY
— Rolando Mirones (@RolandoMirones) January 15, 2020
The case is still under further investigation, according to Fiscal Rafael Baloyes, who spoke to local news stations in Boca del Toro on Thursday.
Horrid tortures and beatings took place before the murders. A woman stood naked and injured in front of the cult when authorities interfered. “This religion was not being practiced prior,” Baloyes said. “The majority of this region practices Catholicism, and this religion was practicing something else. They realized these acts that definitely go against God and all good.”
Ananías González, a member of the Policía Nacional, is related to six of the victims. Various members of El Ministerio de Seguridad Pública released a statement which read, in part: “We stand with González in this difficult time of pain and irreparable loss, and we ask the Almighty to have mercy on the souls and lives who were lost in these unjust and cowardly acts.”