KAMIKUISHIKI, Japan — Police seized a facility yesterday that belongs to the cult being investigated in the deadly nerve gas attacks in Tokyo.
The roadside building, a two-story warehouse-like structure, contains 120 precision machines such as numerically controlled drills and cutters, police said. Authorities say it may have been used to make weapons.
Two hundred police searched through mazes of rooms and buildings and bulldozers dug for hidden evidence, but there was no sign of Asahara. Police refused to comment on reports that they want to charge Asahara with murder.
Asahara has been out of sight since the subway gassings on March 20, which killed 12 people and sickened 5,500.
While the cult denies any involvement, in seven weeks of raids police have found tons of chemicals that could be used to make sarin, the nerve gas used in the subway attacks.
They also reportedly found sodium cyanide and sulfuric acid, which were left Friday in burning plastic bags in a Tokyo subway station but were doused before they could combine to form a deadly gas.
Residents near the cult compound displayed homemade signs yesterday telling cult members they could safely leave.
The cult has been widely portrayed as holding many of its 10,000 members against their will.
“To all of you who went into the religion: police, mass media and local residents are all your supporters. Please ask for help,” say the signs, according to Norie Okamoto, an employee of a local agricultural cooperative.
Prefectural officials ordered yesterday that a building containing a worship hall and gymnasium at the main compound be closed for building code violations.