Panamanian police investigating a religious sect known as “The New Light of God” say they have uncovered seven corpses in a hidden burial pit near where the group was found torturing indigenous people this week in apparent exorcism rituals.
The bodies consisted of six children ranging in ages from 1 to 17 and a pregnant woman who was the mother of five of the kids, prosecutors said. They were found at a remote village near the Caribbean coast. Police arrested 10 members of the sect on Wednesday.
In the raid, police freed 14 members of the Ngabé Buglé indigenous group who had been tied up and beaten with wooden sticks and Bibles, according to The Associated Press. Some also apparently suffered burns.
The Ngabé Buglé, Panama's largest indigenous group, suffer from high rates of poverty and illiteracy.
It was not clear exactly what the rituals consisted of, but they appeared to involved some form of conversion and exorcism.
Nor was it clear what belief or affiliations “The New Light of God” church has.
The area is so remote that helicopters had to be used to ferry the injured out to hospitals for treatment. They included at least two pregnant women and some children.
The grisly scene came to light after three people who had been injured in the rituals made their way to a local clinic over the weekend for treatment, and told authorities more people were being held at the improvised church compound.
There recently had been previous cases of people in the area being beaten or burned with hot embers by preachers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.