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Police Raid Cult Offices Over 1995 Shooting of Police Chief

Associated Press, USA
July 8,2004 • Thursday July 8, 2004

TOKYO–Japanese police on Thursday raided offices of the cult responsible for the deadly 1995 Tokyo subway gassing to look for evidence of the group’s suspected involvement in the shooting of Japan’s national police chief days after the subway attack.

The raid came a day after police arrested three cult members on allegations of attempted murder of the police chief in March 1995.

Another member was arrested for allegedly trying to bomb the home of one of the group’s critics and for possible involvement in the shooting.

National Police Agency chief Takaji Kunimatsu was seriously wounded in the shooting 10 days after the nerve gas attack in the Tokyo subway in March 1995. At the time, Kunimatsu was investigating Aum Shinrikyo, the doomsday cult later held responsible for the attack, which killed 12 people and injured thousands.

Thursday’s raid was aimed at searching for further evidence of the cult’s involvement in the shooting, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK said, showing dozens of investigators huddle into the cult offices.

Police suspect the three arrested Wednesday conspired with several other unidentified attackers in the attempted assassination.

One of the three, Toshiyuki Kosugi, 39, was a policeman at the time of the shooting. He confessed to the attack a year later during questioning, but prosecutors later dropped the case, saying they had no evidence to back up the statement.

Kunimatsu, who nearly died after sustaining three bullet wounds in the 1995 shooting, was leading a nationwide investigation of the subway gassing at the time. Police believe the shooting was aimed at thwarting a police crackdown on the cult.

Aum founder Shoko Asahara was sentenced to hang in April for masterminding the subway attack and about a dozen other cult crimes. Eleven followers also have been sentenced to death for the subway attack.

The cult has changed its name to Aleph and says it’s now harmless. But Japan’s intelligence agency says the group, which uses computer and yoga businesses to expand and remains faithful to Asahara’s violent teachings, is still a threat to society.

Though the group’s membership has shrunk to nearly one-tenth of its peak, it still has 1,650 members _ 650 live-in followers and 1,000 others who practice at home _ in Japan, and 300 others in Russia.

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