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Japanese Police Capture Cult Scientists

Hundreds of police swarmed over a cult commune Thursday, hoping to find a trap door that would lead them to the guru of the sect, which is suspected in the lethal gas attack on Tokyo’s subways.

Shoko Asahara, self-proclaimed messiah and founder of the Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth) cult, has been in hiding since the March 20 attack killed 12 commuters and sickened 5,500.

The investigation into the subway gassing took a surprise turn Wednesday, when police captured two of the doomsday cult’s main scientists - a chemist and a biologist - in a secret basement beneath a cult dormitory.

But hopes that police might find Asahara in a similar shelter had faded by early today, although there were apparently still more undiscovered hiding places.

Leaders of the cult have repeatedly denied any connection with the attack. But daily raids at the cult’s commune in Kamikuishiki, at the foot of Mount Fuji, have turned up tons of chemicals that could have been used to make sarin, the nerve gas released on the subways.

A trap door in a basement floor led police on Wednesday to the underground hideout of Masami Tsuchiya, the man in charge of the cult’s extensive experiments with chemicals and its research into sarin, and Seiichi Endo, a former viral and genetics researcher.