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Police hunt final fugitive in Tokyo gas attack

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Takahashi is on Japan’s most wanted list for his suspected role in the 1995 attack, which killed 13 people and injured more than 6,000.      — File Photo by AFP

TOKYO: Police say they are closing in on the last fugitive suspected in a doomsday cult's deadly nerve gas attack on Tokyo’s subways 17 years ago.

Some 5,000 officers mobilized Friday to hunt for Katsuya Takahashi, handing out photos and monitoring transportation hubs to keep him from escaping the Tokyo area, where they believe he is hiding.

Takahashi is on Japan’s most wanted list for his suspected role in the attack, which killed 13 people and injured more than 6,000.

The long-cold search took a major step forward earlier this year, with the surrender of Makoto Hirata, 47, a former Aum member who gave himself up to officers at a police station in central Tokyo minutes before midnight on New Year's Eve. That led to Monday's arrest of another suspect Naoko Kikuchi, a former senior member of Japan's Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) doomsday cult, who had been on the run for 17 years, leaving only Takahashi.

Nearly 200 cult members have been convicted in connection with the sarin attacks and other crimes.

Kikuchi's reported arrest would leave only one person, Katsuya Takahashi, 54, still at large on the Aum wanted list.

Aum guru Shoko Asahara preached a blend of Buddhist and Hindu dogma mixed with apocalyptic messages, and developed an obsession with sarin gas, becoming paranoid that his enemies would attack him with it.

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