TOKYO : Japan will keep a tight watch on the Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult so it never again causes terror as it did 10 years ago in a deadly nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway, the justice minister said.
“The Public Security Intelligence Agency will maintain strict surveillance to prevent them from causing indiscriminate mass murder again and to clear public worries,” Justice Minister Chieko Nono told reporters.
The cult spread Nazi-invented sarin gas on the Tokyo subway at rush hour on March 20, 1995, killing 12 people and injuring 5,500. It believed the world was on the verge of cataclysmic war and wanted to pre-empt a police raid.
A survey published by the best-selling Yomiuri Shimbun Friday showed 84 percent of the Japanese feared another indiscriminate attack such as the subway gassing in the future.
Seventy-three percent said the Aum sect still worried them, said the poll, which covered 1,795 adults nationwide.
Japan has around 1,650 Aum believers, down sharply from the 11,400 before 1995 but up from around 1,000 in the aftermath of a police crackdown following the attack, according to the Public Security Intelligence Agency.
The cult escaped being outlawed under legislation banning “subversive activities” when a legal panel in January 1997 ruled there was no sufficient reason to believe it could still pose a threat to society.
Three years later, however, Japan turned the heat on the sect under new legislation and put it under state surveillance.