Panama police find new mass grave linked to sect

Authorities in Panama have discovered a new mass grave in a remote area where in January they found the remains of seven people that police believe were tortured and killed by a religious sect.

The state prosecutor’s office said investigators were on Monday supervising the exhumation of skeletal remains from the site in the indigenous Ngabe Bugle region, 350 kilometers (210 miles) north of the capital.

“At this time it is not possible to determine either the sex or the number of people” found in the grave, public prosecutor Azael Tugri told local media.

Tugri said investigators had to hike for 10 hours through mountains to reach the grave.

The latest grisly discovery follows the September arrest of the alleged leader of the “God’s New Light” sect, linked to the grave containing the remains of a pregnant woman and six children found in January.

Authorities have altogether made five arrests in the case, and rescued three minors, a 14 and 10-year-old as well as a three-month-old baby, according to the prosecutor’s office.

In January, investigators uncovered a mass grave in Altos del Terron — an isolated community in the indigenous region — containing the remains of a pregnant woman and six children aged from one to 17.

The bodies had wounds consistent with being beaten.

Days later bibles, messages alluding to the devil and a heap of rope could still be seen at the site of the massacre — a makeshift church in dense jungle that was used by the sect.

Police had raided a church used by the sect allegedly involved in brutal exorcisms, arresting 10 people and rescuing 15 others.

Police believe the victims were “tortured and sacrificed” and that the other 15 people would have been, too.

The public prosecutor’s office said later that the 10 suspects had tied up their victims and beat them to death with bibles, sticks and machetes.

Survivors told them the sect leader claimed he was carrying out God’s orders to “remove the demon” from the victims in a violent exorcism. (AFP)