An almost palpable sense of relief swept over Japan Tuesday with the arrest of the nation’s most-wanted criminal - but it was a modified, limited sort of relief because of lingering fear that this spring’s series of terrorist crimes might not be completely over.
Business virtually ceased and traffic all but stopped Tuesday morning while the nation watched on live television as police apprehended Shoko Asahara, the secretive guru accused of being the mastermind behind the poison gas attack on the Tokyo subways and several other recent crimes.
By charging Asahara and 40 of his followers with murder, police signaled they believe they have solved the mystery of the subway attack, which killed 12 and injured about 5,000 others. In Japan, the vast majority of arrests result in convictions.
But 14 of the accused murderers, all members of Asahara’s Aum Supreme Truth cult, remained at large Tuesday night. Police officials said they believe most of the potentially dangerous members of the cult have been captured. But they warned that the 14 missing cult members might be dangerous.
As if to punctuate the warning, a letter bomb exploded at Tokyo’s city hall Tuesday afternoon, seriously injuring an aide to Tokyo’s governor.
The bomb had been addressed to the governor, who has expressed his determination to terminate Aum’s certification as a religious body.
Police said they are convinced the cult has no more lethal sarin gas of the kind used in the subway attack. Police seized Aum’s chemical production facilities nearly two months ago, and they said any sarin produced before then would have lost its potency by now.