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Police hunt fugitive in Tokyo gas attack

08 June 2012, 15:20

Tokyo - Thousands of police were mobilised on Friday to hunt for the last fugitive suspected in a doomsday cult's deadly nerve gas attack on Tokyo's subway 17 years ago.

About 5 000 officers fanned out across the Tokyo area to hand out fresh photos of the fugitive, Katsuya Takahashi, and monitor transportation hubs to keep him from escaping the capital.

Takahashi, aged 54, is on Japan's most wanted list for his suspected role in the attack, which killed 13 people and injured more than 6 000.

The long-cold search took a major step forward earlier this year when a key fugitive turned himself in. That led to Sunday's arrest of another suspect, leaving only Takahashi.

Police caught him on a security camera trying to withdraw money from a bank shortly after the second fugitive was arrested, and believe he has been hiding out in the Tokyo area under a false name.

Nearly 200 members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult have been convicted in the gas attack and dozens of other crimes. Thirteen, including cult guru Shoko Asahara, are on death row.

Makoto Hirata, charged in a 1995 cult-related kidnapping-murder as well as the subway attack, surrendered to police on New Year's Eve, stunning the nation.

The cult, renamed Aleph, once had 10 000 members in Japan and claimed another 30 000 in Russia. It still has hundreds of members. The cult is under police surveillance and its new leaders have publicly disavowed Asahara.



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