Most Japanese worry about doomsday cult - paper


Reuters, March 2, 2000

TOKYO, March 2, 2000(Reuters) - The vast majority of Japanese say they still fear the mysterious Supreme Truth doomsday cult that set off a fatal nerve gas attack on Tokyo's crowded subway system nearly five years ago, a newspaper said on Thursday.

Those fears are fanned by almost daily reports on newspaper front pages, including revelations this week that some government ministries, including the Defence Agency, had unknowingly installed software developed by cult-related companies.

A poll conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun of 1,928 people showed that 81 percent of those surveyed said they still harboured worries about the Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth) cult.

The poll said 57 percent believed the cult would continue its activities, despite coming under government surveillance since last month and becoming the target of several police raids.

In the 1995 nerve gas attack on the capital's subway system, 12 commuters were killed and thousands injured. Aum preached that the world was coming to an end and that the cult must arm itself to prepare for various calamities.

In a further sign of the cult's activities, major Japanese automaker Honda Motor Co (7267.T) said the personnel records of as many as 3,000 managers had fallen into the hands of the cult.

The automobile giant said the records, which included the name, age and position of most managerial officials, were leaked tothe cult when Honda inadvertently ordered new software from an Aum-related company in 1997.

``We were lucky that the information was just on their names, age and positions,'' a Honda spokesman said. The company has not yet decided whether it will stop using the software, he said.

The news follows Tuesday's discovery that Aum members were involved in designing software for computer systems at a number of ministries and several major private companies.

The ministries and the companies were unaware of the Aum connection because the cult used related companies and acted as subcontractors. Police said up to 100 firms may have bought software from Aum-related companies.

Another user of the cult-developed software, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp (NTT) (9432.T), said it had stopped using the programme temporarily and was checking for dangers to its security system.

``We believe there are no problems, but if it poses any danger we wont't hesitate to replace it,'' a spokesman said.

Both the public and the police fear the cult may stage a comeback, even though its charismatic leader, Shoko Asahara, has been in custody for several years on murder charges.

A law passed last year does not name Aum but targets the activities of any group that has engaged in ``indiscriminate mass murder'' in the past 10 years.

Aum has responded to the hostility by changing its name and insisting it is now a harmless religious group.


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