Seven people—including a pregnant woman and five of her children—were murdered by preachers in a remote area of Panama holding a bizarre ritual to make them "repent their sins," authorities say. Ten people, including the children's grandfather, were arrested in an area controlled by the "New Light of God" religious sect, the BBC reports. Authorities say residents of the remote area were rounded up by lay preachers and tortured in an exorcism ritual. Authorities were alerted by three people who escaped and made their way to hospitals. Some 15 people who had been held against their will were freed. Authorities say the victims were burned, hacked with machetes, and beaten with wooden cudgels and Bibles.
The seven bodies, including children as young as a year old, were found about a mile away from the building where the ritual was carried out. "They searched this family out to hold a ritual and they massacred them, mistreated them, killed practically the whole family," prosecutor Rafael Baloyes says, per the AP. The victims, and apparently all of the suspects, are members of the Ngabe Bugle indigenous group. Baloyes says the sect had only been active in the area for about three months. He says the grim events unfolded after a church member said "God had given them a message." Ricardo Miranda, leader of the Ngabe Bugle semi-autonomous zone, called for the eradication of the "Satanic" sect. (Read more Panama stories.)