2 CHARGED WITH CARRYING CHEMICALS IN JAPAN IN CRACKDOWN ON CULT
TOKYO — Police arrested two members of the sect Sublime Truth today on charges of carrying an explosive chemical, expanding a crackdown on the cult suspected in a nerve gas attack on Tokyo’s subways.
Several cult members were arrested last week on an unrelated kidnapping charge, and police made two more arrests today in Shizuoka, southwest of Tokyo. The pair, who said they were cult followers, were accused of carrying potentially explosive sodium without a permit.
The arrests were made as officers mounted a manhunt for the gunman who shot and wounded the nation’s top police official as he left for work yesterday morning.
The sect is the prime suspect in the March 20 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subways that killed 10 people and sickened 5,500 others. It denies involvement, but police have seized a cache of chemicals and equipment for making nerve gas in raids at the sect’s compounds.
The group also denied involvement in the attack on the head of the National Police Agency, Takaji Kunimatsu, who was shot four times from behind by a masked assailant as he left his Tokyo condominium for work yesterday morning. Kunimatsu was in serious condition after surgery.
The shooting was a fresh shock to Japanese already reeling from the subway attack. It marked another assault on a self-image of safety and security in a country where guns are banned.
“We can only say, ‘It’s scary, it’s so scary,’ ” author Kaoru Takamura said. “I think this is very sad.”
Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama called the shooting a contemptible act and ordered an all-out investigation. He also called for tighter security for top government officials.
Kunimatsu had no bodyguard with him.
Police combed Kunimatsu’s neighborhood in eastern Tokyo for signs of his assailant, described as a thin, middle-aged man in a black coat who wore a surgical face mask. He fled by bicycle.
Several people believed to be followers of Supreme Truth were seen at Kunimatsu’s building on Wednesday, handing out leaflets criticizing police actions.
Transportation officials ordered vigilance on buses, trains, planes and stations for suspicious objects or people. Subway officials have earmarked $11.1 million for new security cameras at nearly 150 stations.