Sun, Jun 10, 2012 - Page 4 News List

Japan hunts last fugitive in 1995 Aum gas attack

AP, TOKYO

Japan has mobilized thousands of police to hunt for the last fugitive suspected of involvement in a doomsday cult’s deadly nerve gas attack on Tokyo’s subway 17 years ago.

The long-cold search advanced significantly with the surrender of one fugitive earlier this year and the arrest of another on Sunday last week, leaving only Katsuya Takahashi on the loose.

About 5,000 officers fanned out on Friday across the Tokyo area to hand out fresh photos of him and monitor transportation hubs to keep him from escaping the capital.

Takahashi, 54, is on Japan’s most-wanted list for his suspected role in the sarin gas attack, which killed 13 people and injured more than 6,000.

A security camera earlier this week showed Takahashi trying to withdraw money from a bank shortly after the second fugitive was arrested and police believe he has been hiding in the Tokyo area under a false name.

Nearly 200 members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult have been convicted in the attack and dozens of other crimes. Thirteen, including cult guru Shoko Asahara, are on death row.

Makoto Hirata, charged in a 1995 cult-related kidnapping-murder as well as the subway attack, surrendered to police on New Year’s Eve, stunning the nation.

The second fugutive captured, Naoko Kikuchi, 40, admitted who she was when she was arrested on Sunday last week. She had been accused of helping produce the sarin the group released on the subway.

Aum Shinrikyo had amassed an arsenal of chemical, biological and conventional weapons in anticipation of an apocalyptic showdown with the government

The cult, renamed Aleph in 2000, at its peak had 10,000 members in Japan and claimed another 30,000 in Russia.

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