After turning up new evidence linking a secretive cult to a deadly nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway, police sought 30 cult chemists in connection with plotting mass murder, Japanese media reported Saturday.
They would be the first cult followers specifically connected to the murder investigation of the gas attack, which killed 10 people.
Several members of the Aum Shinri Kyo, or Supreme Truth, have been arrested on charges unrelated to the subway attack. Two were arrested Friday for allegedly carrying an explosive chemical.
Tokyo police asked authorities across the country to look for 30 chemists from the cult’s “Science and Technology Ministry” whom they wanted to question on suspicion of plotting mass murder, the newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported Saturday.
Quoting unnamed police sources, Asahi said the 30 were thought to have been involved in preparing sarin, the gas used in the subway attack. Police refused to confirm the report.
The chemists were highly trained, and received special treatment by the cult. While most followers eat meager meals and live frugally, the scientists reportedly enjoyed facilities equal to those of university laboratories.
Tokyo police have said they are also looking for the leader of the cult, longhaired, bearded guru Shoko Asahara.
Police reportedly have identified a 10-member “action squad” within the sect that served as Asahara’s personal guards and beat followers who tried to drop out.
The squad was trained in karate and other martial arts and, according to former followers, included veterans of the yakuza, Japan’s mafia, Kyodo News Service reported Saturday.
Supreme Truth denies involvement in the subway attack or Thursday’s shooting of the man heading the investigation into it. National Police Agency chief Takaji Kunimatsu remained in serious condition Saturday.
But police continued to find new evidence linking the cult to the subway attack, news reports said Saturday. At cult facilities, police found a notebook which details production of sarin, the Nihon Keizai newspaper reported.
In previous raids on the sect’s facilities, authorities have turned up chemicals and complex equipment which could have been used to make tons of sarin - enough, experts say, to kill millions of people.
Police identified the chemists from computer files found Friday that list cult members, including many highly trained scientists, according to reports.
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