A soldier who belongs to the cult accused of unleashing deadly nerve gas on Tokyo’s subways was arrested Thursday, reportedly on suspicion he stole weapons data from a top defense contractor.
The arrest added to evidence that the sect actively recruited members of the military in an attempt to form an armed unit, the NHK public broadcasting network reported.
About 50 current or former military personnel are believed to be members of the Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth) cult. Several are accused in various crimes, including wiretapping, breaking into government facilities and setting off explosives.
The cult claims 10,000 followers in Japan, several dozen of whom have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the March 20 subway attack. Twelve people died from exposure to the nerve gas sarin and more than 5,500 were sickened.
Since then, the Japanese have been quick to complain about suspicious fumes. On Thursday, 12 people were treated for eye, nose and throat pain Thursday after inhaling fumes of an undetermined origin at a fitness club south of Tokyo, police said.
After the subway attack, police raids on cult properties turned up evidence of research into explosives, laser and biological weapons, tank procurement, and plans to carry out guerrilla warfare and large-scale chemical attacks. Police suspect the cult of plotting to overthrow the government.
But they would say only that the soldier arrested Thursday, Tatsuya Toyama, an army sergeant, is accused of trespassing at the research facility operated by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., Japan’s largest defense contractor. A senior researcher at the lab also was arrested.