WASHINGTON — The Justice Department yesterday denied a published report that a Japanese cult was planning to release a deadly nerve gas at Disneyland during the crowded Easter weekend.
A department spokesman, Carl Stern, said there was no basis for a report in yesterday’s editions of The (Baltimore) Sun that authorities had stopped two Japanese men at Los Angeles International Airport a few days before the April 16 holiday and found instructions on how to make the highly toxic gas sarin. “That just didn’t happen,” Stern said.
The Sun had reported that the men were allegedly members of the Japanese cult suspected of releasing sarin in the Tokyo subway system last month, killing 12 people. The newspaper quoted federal officials who had requested anonymity.
Authorities also found a videotape containing images about the planned attack and other evidence that the theme park in Anaheim, Calif., was the target, The Sun said.
Disneyland released a statement late Friday saying it had received a threat to park visitors before Easter weekend and notified federal authorities. Disney said that the authorities, which it did not identify, determined the threat was a hoax.
Stern acknowledged that federal authorities had responded, as they do from time to time, to a reported threat at Disneyland but “this one, like others, turned out to be a false alarm.” He declined to discuss the source or nature of the threat.
The Pentagon had no comment, and officials at the Japanese National Police agency said they could neither confirm nor deny the report.
The Sun reported that Tokyo police had alerted the FBI this month that two Japanese men associated with the Sublime Truth sect were flying to Los Angeles. The newspaper could not determine whether the Japanese men were arrested or returned to Japan.