PANAMA (AP) – The authorities in Panama rescued at least 14 people, including some children and women, who were held and suffered physical abuse by members of a sect in a poor indigenous region west of the country, Wednesday said.
The director in charge of the National Police, Alexis Muñoz, said that there was also a grave that is already being inspected. Local media subsequently reported the discovery of at least seven buried bodies, which The Associated Press could not immediately confirm.
Hours earlier, the Ministry of Security said that ten members of the sect had been arrested in the operation, which he identified as "The new light of God."RELATED
The provincial prosecutor Rafael Baloyes said that this group was dedicated "to mistreat and commit criminal acts."
The events occurred in a remote village in the Ngabé Buglé ethnic region, located in the west and the Panamanian Caribbean. All detainees were from that aboriginal group, the most affected by poverty and illiteracy in the country.
An indigenous villager, identified as José González, had alerted the authorities about what was happening in the area. He told, according to statements to the local press, that sect members tied dozens of people and beat them brutally as part of a ritual. He added that among the detainees were his wife, who received a machete, and his 15-year-old son, who managed to escape with blows to the body.
Units of the National Air Service transferred several of the rescued to a hospital in a nearby province, including two pregnant women.
The natives were beaten on the head and body with pieces of wood and even with the bible, said the director of the hospital's emergency room, Eduardo Vannuchi, according to the testimony of some victims.
The so-called Church of the Living God Column and Support of Truth "The Light of the World" denied in a statement that is linked to those acts.