OSAKA, Japan — Police yesterday reportedly linked chemical residue found outside a doomsday cult compound last year to the traces of nerve gas found in the Tokyo subway after an attack that killed 10 people.
The residue police found in soil samples nine months ago also matches that discovered after the mysterious deaths last year of seven people in central Japan, the Kyodo News Service said.
The nerve gas sarin was blamed in both cases.
No one has claimed responsibility for either last Monday’s subway attack, which also sickened 5,000 people, or last year’s deaths in Matsumoto.
The cult Omu Shinrikyo, or Sublime Truth, has denied involvement in either.
Police would not confirm the Kyodo report.
They have maintained that four days of raids on cult properties last week were prompted by suspicion the group was involved in kidnappings.
Yesterday, police seized hundreds more barrels of chemicals which could be used in the production of sarin.
Police told the national newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun that chemicals found on cult properties so far could have made enough sarin to kill 4.2 million people in an attack on an urban center.
The newspaper did not say how police arrived at the figure.
Two weeks after the Matsumoto deaths, police took soil samples from near the group’s compound in Kamikuishiki, at the foot of Mount Fuji, after neighbors had complained of noxious fumes.
Sarin samples were found, but no arrests made. The police yesterday linked chemical residues found in those samples to the subway attack and the Matsumoto deaths, Kyodo said.
There was no immediate response from the cult, and telephone calls to its offices were not answered.
The cult leader, Shoko Asahara, claimed he and about 850 followers are sick
because of nerve gas attacks which he claimed were launched by the US military.
“I say this because the substance,” sarin, “was detected from the air after more than 10 US military planes flew over,” he said in a videotaped statement to his followers.
“Therefore, our enemy would be none other than the US military, if we wanted to fight.”
The video, which offered no evidence, was reportedly shown at 36 cult chapters and training centers nationwide.
Police continued to comb buildings owned by the group and removed tons of chemicals.
If the labels on the containers are accurate, police have seized at least 40 different types of chemicals at cult compounds in a rural area near Mount Fuji, about 60 miles southeast of Tokyo.
These include tons of sodium fluoride and organic compounds containing phosphorus, which are key sarin ingredients.
Police also confirmed that they had found 500 drums of glycerine and what appears to be nitric acid, ingredients in the explosive nitroglycerine.
The cult leader has said the stockpiled chemicals were used to make plastic, ceramics and pesticides.
One person identified as a former cult member appeared on NHK public television yesterday, saying victims, including children, were abused by the cult.
“We were given just enough food to stay alive, things like ramen noodles and bread,” he said, his identity masked.
A crying child was closed in an isolation chamber for 45 days, he said.