Last fugitive in Japan gas attack arrested

Cult member held after 17-year manhunt for suspects in poison gas attack on Tokyo subway that left 13 people dead.

    Last fugitive in Japan gas attack arrested
    Police descended on a comic book cafe in southern Tokyo on Friday morning after being tipped off [Reuters]

    Japanese police have arrested the final suspect in the 1995 nerve gas attack in Tokyo that had left 13 people dead and thousand others injured.

    The arrest on Friday morning of Katsuya Takahashi, a member of a religious cult, brings to an end a 17-year police hunt for those behind the co-ordinated release of poisonous sarin gas in the Japanese capital’s subway system.

    Police descended on a comic book cafe in southern Tokyo after being tipped off that a man fitting Katsuya's description was there, a spokesman told the AFP news agency.

    "Detectives asked him to come voluntarily to a nearby police station," the spokesman said, adding that officers subsequently "arrested Takahashi after his fingerprints matched" those in police records.

    According to a Japanese newswire, Takahashi, 54, had been arrested on suspicion of murder and other charges. He told interrogators he had acted "under orders from [the cult's] top officers".

    A high-profile manhunt had been under way in and around the capital since the arrest less than two weeks ago of Naoko Kikuchi, 40, a former member of the Aum Supreme Truth cult.

    Both Kikuchi and Takahashi had been on the run since the attack that formed part of a doomsday vision by the cult's founder.

    Other crimes

    Takahashi, a former guard for Aum guru Shoko Asahara, allegedly served as a driver when the cult's members released the nerve gas in the subway system.

    He is also suspected of having played a role in a kidnapping involving another fugitive, Makoto Hirata, and of sending an explosive to then-Tokyo governor Yukio Aoshima in 1995.

    Hirata, 47, gave himself up at a police station in central Tokyo minutes before midnight on last New Year's Eve.

    As well as the Tokyo attack, the Aum cult was also responsible for an incident in the city of Matsumoto in central Japan in 1994, when sarin killed eight people.

    Despite posters showing their faces displayed at nearly every train station in Japan, the trio evaded capture.

    On June 3, police arrested Kikuchi, who stands accused of being involved in the production of the sarin.

    Asahara, a partially blind guru who preached a blend of Buddhism and Hinduism mixed with apocalyptic messages, developed an obsession with sarin gas, becoming paranoid that his enemies would attack him with it.

    He was arrested at a commune near Mount Fuji two months after the attack on Tokyo and sentenced to hang, having been convicted of crimes resulting in multiple deaths.

    He remains on death row, along with 12 other cult members.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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