Japan Cops Raid Cult Facilities


AP, January 26, 1999

YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) - Police on Wednesday raided four facilities of the doomsday cult accused in the 1995 fatal gassing on Tokyo subways as part of an investigation into the kidnapping of the former guru's son.

Several intruders suspected of being cult followers broke into a cult facility last week and kidnapped the 7-year-old son of Shoko Asahara.

Asahara is on trial on charges of masterminding the gassing that killed 12 people and sickened more than 5,000 people. Asahara was recently replaced as guru, part of the group's recent efforts to tone down its image.

Police found the boy on Sunday. Three members of Aum Shinri Kyo, which has changed its name to Aleph, were arrested in the kidnapping.

The kidnapping likely reflects brewing infighting in the cult centered on Asahara's children, who are believed by followers to possess spiritual powers.

The raids Wednesday were at two sites near Tokyo and two in Yokohama, including an apartment where former cult spokesman Fumihiro Joyu has been staying since his release from prison last month.

Joyu is one of the cult's top leaders not in prison or on trial, and the public has been increasingly wary about the cult's possible resurgence.

Under Joyu's leadership, the group has been trying to ward off a further crackdown by the authorities.

Besides changing its name and deposing Asahara, the cult recently accepted for the first time responsibility in the 1995 sarin attack and promised to compensate the victims.

Late last year, Tokyo toughened its laws to allow the authorities to monitor the cult more closely.


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