Japanese cult makes apology for gas attacks

AUM SHINRIKYO, the doomsday cult, apologised yesterday for a series of poison gas attacks, including a deadly assault on Tokyo's Underground system, and offered compensation to the survivors.

The cult's acting leader, Tatsuko Muraoka, said: "We now offer our sincere apology for the victims and their family members," adding that Aum would make "as much compensation as possible"; she declined to discuss how much.

Shoko Asahara, the cult's former guru, is on trial for masterminding at least 17 crimes, including the Tokyo strike that killed 12 and made thousands ill in March 1995.

A resurgence in recruiting and other activities by the cult, thought to have 2,100 members, has set off protests across the country. The Japanese parliament is considering a Bill to provide for the monitoring of groups that have committed mass murder, such as Aum. It is expected to become law by the end of the year.

Ms Muraoka called the Bill regrettable, saying it would "trespass on people's fundamental rights". (AP)