Joyu, 44, will form a group less influenced by guru Shoko Asahara, who is on Death Row after being convicted of masterminding the 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 and injured thousands more.
Public safety authorities are keeping a close watch on AUM, which now calls itself Aleph, to see how it reacts to the loss of one of its best-known members.
“Membership of the new group is voluntary and they are going to study religion. They plan to report the new group’s formation to public safety authorities,” an insider said.
Public safety officials remain wary of the cult. “They’re just trying to put on a show for the public and safety officials, claiming that they’ve given up on Asahara. Nothing has changed,” a public safety official said.
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Sources said that of AUM’s roughly 650 followers, about 60 will follow Joyu to form a new group, which as yet remains unnamed. Joyu’s followers are believed to be keen on ending the practice of assigning cultists with holy names and ranking their positions.
Joyu’s group also plans to destroy books, mantra videos and electronic data featuring Asahara.
AUM has recently split into two groups, the Joyu faction, which favors weakening the influence of Asahara’s teachings, and the Anti-Joyu faction, which wants to retain the guru’s effects. The groups have been acting independently since July 2006.