Chile discovers huge weapons cache on cult grounds

Santiago, Chile - Chilean officials have discovered a cache of machine guns and rocket-launchers on the property of a secretive German cult, one of the biggest weapons finds in the South American country's history.

The cache was discovered during a probe into ex-cult leader Paul Schaefer, the German citizen accused of aiding the secret police during Chile's 1973-1990 military dictatorship.

"Believe me, what's been discovered so far is of a dimension that can only be explained in a military context," Interior Minister Jorge Correa told reporters on Wednesday.

"We're talking about a large arsenal and I must stress that it's going to end up being the largest ever found in private hands in the life and history of Chile," he added.

Correa said he hoped the discovery at Colonia Dignidad, a remote property in Southern Chile, would help seal the government's case against 83-year-old Schaefer.

Schaefer led a cult of several hundred German followers in southern Chile for decades. He fled Chile in 1997 and eluded capture until his arrest earlier this month in a Buenos Aires suburb.

He has been charged with the disappearance of political prisoners during the dictatorship.

Schaefer has also been charged with child sexual abuse at the Colonia Dignidad, where he is accused of having abused more than two dozen Chilean children lured to a free clinic and school on the property founded in 1961 as a communal farm.

"We are confident that this will help us convince the judges that besides this (Colonia Dignidad) being an illegal association dedicated to sexual crimes and crimes of tax evasion, it had paramilitary ends as well," Correa said.

Some of Schaefer's former followers, who worshiped him for decades, have denounced him and vowed to help authorities in their investigations.

Schaefer's unnamed apocalyptic sect demanded zero contact between the sexes, long hours of work in exchange for communal food and housing, and extreme discipline.