Thousands of police are on the streets of Tokyo today, June 8, searching for the final member of a doomsday cult that attacked the city's subway system with deadly sarin gas in 1995.
Katsuya Takahashi, aged 54, is on Japan's most wanted list. He was part of a cult called Aum Shinrikyo which released the sarin gas, which attacks the body's nervous system, killing thirteen people and injuring more than six thousand.
The Daily Mail reports that the suspect had been sighted using an ATM machine. A key member of the cult turned himself in to the police in January and the following investigation led to the arrest of another cult member on Sunday June 3. Just under 200 of the cult members are in prison with thirteen on death row, including the cult leader, Shoko Asahara.
The BBC says that Takahashi fled his home on Monday June 5 and went to clear out his bank account. The police had been on the point of raiding his home after the arrest of cult member Naoko Kikuchi, a 40-year-old woman who was arrested in Sagamihara, west of Tokyo. Police are combing the city with updated pictures of Takahashi.
Metronews Canada shows a cctv picture of the fugitive taken on June 4 showing him taking money out of the ATM machine. The site reports that around five thousand police officers are involved in the search. It would seem that he had been living under an assumed name in Tokyo ever since the 1995 attack.
The cult was founded in 1984 by Shoko Asahara. Its name is usually translated into English as 'Supreme Truth' and at the time of the sarin attack had around 9,000 members in Japan and an alleged 40,000 worldwide. In 2000 the group changed its name and logo and now calls itself 'aleph' which is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
According to the website, Japan Reference, the cult's doctrine " is based on the ancient Buddhist scriptures called Pali Canon. The collection comprises about 70 volumes, fully translated from Pali language into modern Japanese by the group's translation team. Along with the Pali Canon, Aleph uses other religious texts, including a number of Tibetan Buddhist sutras, some Hindu yogic sutras and Taoist scriptures." After the attack, the group announced a change of leadership and doctrine and still operates in Japan. It is still considered to be a terrorist group by many western countries.