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7 killed, others tortured in religious ritual in jungle

Jose Gonzalez, left, follows his 5-year-old daughter, carried by a police officer, as they leave a hospital in Santiago, Panama, Jan. 16, 2020. Gonzalez's wife and five of their children are among seven people killed in a religious ritual in the Ngabe Bugle indigenous community. According to local prosecutor Rafael Baloyes indigenous residents were rounded up by lay preachers and tortured, beaten, burned and hacked with machetes to make them "repent their sins."

PANAMA CITY — Seven people were killed in a bizarre religious ritual in a jungle community in Panama, in which indigenous residents were rounded up by about 10 lay preachers and tortured, beaten, burned and hacked with machetes to make them “repent their sins,” authorities said Thursday.

Police freed 14 members of the Ngabé Buglé indigenous group who had been tied up and beaten with wooden cudgels and Bibles.

Local prosecutor Rafael Baloyes described a chilling scene found by investigators when they made their way through the jungle-clad hills to the remote Ngabé Buglé indigenous community near the Caribbean coast Tuesday. 

Alerted by three villagers who escaped and made their way to a local hospital for treatment earlier, police were prepared for something bad, Baloyes said, but were still surprised by what they discovered at an improvised “church” at a ranch where a little-known religious sect known as “The New Light of God” was operating. 


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