Last fugitive of Sarin attack captured


Japan closed a chapter on one of its most shocking postwar episodes yesterday with the capture of the last remaining fugitive from the deadly doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo.

The arrest of Katsuya Takahashi ended a 17-year hunt that began after cultists released deadly Sarin nerve gas on Tokyo's underground system. The 1995 attack killed 13 people, injured thousands and terrorised the world's most populated metropolis.

Takahashi, 54, was tracked down in an internet and comic book café in Tokyo after a tip-off to the police, who had offered a $127,000 reward for his capture. He apparently spent his last few days of freedom watching TV news reports about the manhunt in a string of similar cafés.

Takahashi, a former bodyguard for the cult's blind guru, Shoko Asahara, was a driver for one of the teams that took packets of sarin gas on to packed rush-hour trains. Umbrellas with sharpened points were used to puncture the packets, leaving hundreds of commuters sick or dying. The crime, using a gas that was developed by the Nazis and infamously used by Saddam Hussein against Kurds in 1988, stunned Japan. Many cult members were doctors and professionals with elite careers before they were bewitched by Asahara's apocalyptic blend of Buddhism, Hinduism and extreme paranoia.

All of the ringleaders of the attack are now behind bars, and about 200 have been convicted. Asahara was sentenced to death in 2004 but is still awaiting execution, along with 12 of his former disciples.