By ERIC TALMADGE
TOKYO — Japan has mobilized thousands of police to hunt for the last fugitive suspected in a doomsday cult’s deadly nerve gas attack on Tokyo’s subway 17 years ago.
The long-cold search advanced significantly with the surrender of one fugitive earlier this year and the arrest of another Sunday, leaving only Katsuya Takahashi.
Some 5,000 officers fanned out Friday across the Tokyo area to hand out fresh photos of him and monitor transportation hubs to keep him from escaping the capital.
Takahashi, 54, is on Japan’s most wanted list for his suspected role in the sarin gas attack, which killed 13 people and injured more than 6,000.
A security camera earlier this week showed Takahashi trying to withdraw money from a bank shortly after the second fugitive was arrested, and police believe he has been hiding in the Tokyo area under a false name.
Nearly 200 members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult have been convicted in the attack and dozens of other crimes. Thirteen, including cult guru Shoko Asahara, are on death row.
Makoto Hirata, charged in a 1995 cult-related kidnapping-murder as well as the subway attack, surrendered to police on New Year’s Eve, stunning the nation.
The second fugutive captured, Naoko Kikuchi, 40, admitted who she was when she was arrested Sunday. She had been accused of helping produce the sarin the group released on the subway.
Aum Shinrikyo had amassed an arsenal of chemical, biological and conventional weapons in anticipation of an apocalyptic showdown with the government
The cult, renamed Aleph, once had 10,000 members in Japan and claimed another 30,000 in Russia. It still has hundreds of members. The cult is under police surveillance and its new leaders have publicly disavowed Asahara.