TOKYO — Japan’s top security official said yesterday that the huge police investigation of a doomsday cult suspected in the nerve gas attack on Tokyo’s subways was like a war, and vowed to win it quickly.
The cult came under further attack from disgruntled individuals. Two days after the fatal stabbing of a senior cult leader in Tokyo, police seized a sword-wielding man at a cult office in Kyoto, western Japan. There were no reports of injuries.
Hiromu Nonaka, a Cabinet minister who chairs the National Public Safety Commission, provided the government’s most severe description yet of the Aum Shinri Kuo, or Sublime Truth sect, a quasi-Buddhist group that predicts the world will end in 1997.
His comments could indicate the government is readying a major new move against the group.
“My feeling now is that it’s like a battle between two countries,” Nonaka said.
“Their unusual way of thinking, in which they consider themselves a race unto themselves willing to risk their own lives, gives me a strong feeling of danger,” he added.
More than 100 sect members have been arrested on various charges, but police have yet to name a suspect in the March 20 attack in Tokyo’s subways that killed 12 people and sickened 5,500.
Nonake said the public call to charge cult members with subversion “shows just how much a danger this presents to our very state.”
The man arrested yesterday in Kyoto was identified as Koji Ozawa, said an official who spoke on condition of anonymity. His motive and background were not immediately known.
Kyodo News Service said the man shouted, “Come out, you guys!” after breaking into a building housing cult offices. It said four cult members inside locked themselves in one room of the office.
Hideo Murai, head of the cult’s “Science and Technology Ministry,” was stabbed to death Sunday in Tokyo. Murai had frequently appeared on television to deny the cult produced sarin, the nerve gas used in the subway poisoning.
Police arrested Hiroyuki Jo, 29, in connection with Murai’s slaying. They reportedly believe he may be connected to Japan’s largest underworld crime syndicate, and are trying to determine his motive.
Police have discovered chemicals and equipment that could be used to manufacture sarin, the nerve gas used in the attack, at cult facilities.
The cult has denied making sarin and has also denied any involvement in the subway attack.