Gas attacks on a rail station and a subway in Tokyo were foiled Tuesday night when cleaners found homemade devices with timers before they were set to go off, news reports said.
Kyodo News Service said the chemicals found in a device at the Kayabacho subway station could kill about 8,800 people if they were combined to form a lethal gas.
No one was hurt, but more than 100 people ran out of the subway station during the evening rush hour after police warned of a possible bomb.
Police were treating the incident as a case of attempted murder, but said there was no immediate link with the cult accused in the March 20 nerve gas attack that killed 12 people and sickened 5,500 in Tokyo’s subways.
A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a cleaning woman found the device in a women’s toilet, put it in her trash bag and reported to police. He said a timer on it was set to cut open and mix two vinyl bags of chemicals, including one containing cyanide, to form a lethal gas.
About six hours later, police said an employee changing toilet paper reported finding a vinyl bag containing liquid, possibly sulfuric acid, along with a timer in a toilet at Shinjuku, a major Tokyo railway station.
Chemical experts stopped the timer, apparently meant to release the bag’s contents, by cutting a wire, said a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity. He said the chemicals from both Shinjuku and Kayabacho were being tested at police laboratories.
Since the May 16 arrest of Shoko Asahara, guru of the Aum Shinri Kyo cult who has been charged with murder in the March subway attack, many Japanese have feared possible retaliatory attacks. Copycats may have been preying on those fears, for there have been a series of cases of unexplained fumes in the last five months.
Shinjuku was the site of an attempted lethal gas attack on May 5 that also has been blamed on the doomsday cult.
A cleaning woman moved two plastic bags of chemicals, one containing sodium cyanide and one containing sulfuric acid. She apparently disrupted a triggering mechanism that would have mixed the two to produce cyanide. When the bags burst into flames that evening, employees were able to douse the fire before the deadly gas was produced. Authorities say the attack could have killed 10,000 people.
The Kayabacho station was on the same line hit in the March 20 attack for which Asahara and about a dozen top lieutenants face murder charges. In that case, sarin nerve gas was carried onto trains in plastic bags that were poked open with umbrellas.