Thu | Feb 20, 2020

Cult ‘anointed by God’ kills 7 in Panama jungle

Published:Sunday | January 19, 2020 | 1:32 PM
A bible is inside the improvised temple where a pregnant woman, five of her children and a neighbor were killed in a religious ritual in a jungle community in El Terron, Panama, Friday, January 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

EL TERRON, Panama (AP) — Bibles rest on a wooden altar next to percussion instruments — a guiro and a drum — in the room where a religious sect allegedly forced a pregnant woman and five of her children to walk through fire in this remote hamlet.

The makeshift sanctuary littered with muddy boots and scorched clothing belonged to a cult whose indigenous members professed to be “anointed by God” to sacrifice non-believers, even if the heretics were members of their own families, people in El Terron say.

Seven villagers were slain by the cult last Monday, while 14 more were rescued the next day by police who found them bound and beaten in the temple, authorities have said.

Several more villagers escaped with burns.

Nine villagers have been arrested and charged with murder, reportedly including a grandfather and two uncles of the five children who died alongside their pregnant mother and a neighbour.

“Nobody expected this,” said a distraught tribal leader, Evangelisto Santo.

El Terron is nestled in the jungle of the indigenous Ngabe Bugle enclave on Panama’s Caribbean coast, and it is largely cut off from the modern world.

Residents must walk hours along steep and muddy narrow roads to hail boats that can transport them along a river to other villages that have electricity, telephones, health clinics, and a police presence.

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