Bomb blast after cult leader is arrested

As Shoko Asahara, leader of the Aum Shinri Kyo religious cult, was being questioned last night by police investigating the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, a parcel bomb exploded in the offices of the city's Governor, Yukio Aoshima.

The explosion occurred shortly after 7pm. Maskai Usumi, 44, an aide to the Governor, lost his left hand and right thumb after opening a large brown envelope.

"Suddenly there was the sound of a huge explosion, and he was lying on the ground with his fingers gone," a cleaner said. "Then there was just panic: clouds of smoke, and people screaming and coughing."

Mr Aoshima, who was in another part of the building at the time, is a controversial figure. He has a popular following but also many political enemies. He is a prize-winning writer and television comedian, whose election in April as an independent candidate upset political circles. His decision to cancel the Tokyo World City Expo, planned for next year, angered politicians and businesses that intended to invest in the project. Last week, he was heckled by conservative politicians in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly. It is hard to imagine, however, that Mr Aoshima's opponents would resort to terrorism.

Suspicion will inevitably focus on Aum Shinri Kyo, which hoarded hundreds of tons of chemical, biological and explosive ingredients in its buildings near Mt Fuji, close to where Mr Asahara was found yesterday.

Police arrested the cult leader in his residence in the village, more than four hours after breaking into the building with electric cutters.

The building had been searched by police several times during a seven- week investigation into the cult, but they did not know his whereabouts until recently. Electricity had been cut off, and investigators carrying torches had to force their way into the many small rooms. Mr Asahara was found in a one-metre-high compartment, concealed between the second and third floors. He was meditating alone in his purple robes and offered no resistance.

He was arrested on suspicion of the murder of 12 commuters and the attempted murder of 5,500 who were poisoned in the sarin subway attack on 20 March.

Mr Asahara was driven to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police (MPD) headquarters, 100km away. Under questioning the cult leader, who is visually impaired, denied the charges. "How could I, with my bad eyes, have done such a thing?" he asked. But, despite claims by his followers that he has been ill, Mr Asahara appeared in good health. When a doctor tried to take his pulse, he was brushed away. "I am fine," Mr Asahara said. "Don't touch me, please. I don't allow even my disciples to touch me."

Dawn raids were carried out on 130 other Aum facilities and by the end of the day about half of the 41 people named in the murder warrants were in custody. Still at large was Takeshi Matsumoto, a member of the sect's "Intelligence Ministry", suspected of kidnapping a cult member's brother in February.

The Japanese Prime Minister, Tomiichi Murayama, announced that the sect would be dissolved. But he warned: "They may have produced more sarin and are still concealing it. We need to stay on the alert."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
News
i100
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
people
News
people
News
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen