Poison gas chemicals found at cult HQ

Leader urges sect members to `greet death without regrets' as authorities are accused of dithering in face of disasters

Japanese police wearing gas masks and protective suits removed 34 drums containing nerve gas solvents yesterday as they raided a bizarre sect implicated in Monday's poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. Shoko Asahara, the charismatic leader of Aum Shinri Kyo, which means "the Supreme Truth", was still at large, but the government-owned NHK television channel broadcast a message to his followers in which he appeared to call on them to commit suicide.

"The time has come at last for you to awake and help me," he said. "You must act to carry out the salvation plan and to greet death without regrets". The call was first carried on Tuesday by a Russian radio station on which the cult rents time to reach its many adherents in Russia's far east. It was not known whether Mr Asahara had gone there.

As the death toll in Monday's mass poisoning reached 10, police staged dawn raids on more than two dozen sites around Japan. The biggest operation was at Kamiku-Isshiki, a small village on the slopes of Mount Fuji, where the cult has one of its largest communes. Last year traces of acetonitrile, a chemical associated with the nerve gas sarin, were found in soil nearby. The same chemical was found in the carriages polluted by Monday's attack, and in the drums seized yesterday.

About 50 Aum Shinri Kyo followers at the commune were found in a "comatose state" and suffering from acute malnutrition, apparently after fasting. Several were taken to hospital. The cult demands that its followers hand over all their wealth on joining, and police also took away 700m yen (£4.9m) in cash and 22lbs of gold.

Although several cult members were arrested, no one has yet been charged with the attempt at mass murder in Tokyo this week, in which nearly 5,000 people on three subway lines were poisoned. About 70 people are still in a critical condition. The official line yesterday was that police were investigating the disappearance of Kiyoshi Kamira, who was allegedly kidnapped by cult members last month. "But when investigating we, of course, think of various possibilities," said Kozo Igarashi, chief cabinet secretary.

There was no further word on the fate of a suspect police were reported to have under guard in a Tokyo hospital. Witnesses said he planted one of the deadly parcels before being overcome by its fumes, but he had not recovered sufficiently to be questioned.

As officers wearing gas masks prepared before dawn to move in on the Kamiku-Isshiki compound, spotlights lit up the forest. Police had advanced gas-sniffing machines, but also carried canaries, whose deaths would warn of toxic fumes.

Inside the filthy, hodgepodge warehouse compound, several bizarrely dressed sect members walked aimlessly about. One man wore what looked like an aviator's helmet with wires protruding from electrodes stuck to it. A pregnant woman, in a dirt-stained white butcher's smock, wandered nearby, appearing disoriented. Another woman wore a purple woollen hat with wires protruding from underneath.

Soon after police arrived, at least a dozen ambulances were summoned. Police and medical personnel began carrying out the first of about 50 people on stretchers. Doctors said they appeared to be suffering from malnutrition, and at least six were hospitalised.

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress among those on 'master list' of massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Supply Teachers Required

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of Pay, Excellent CPD : Randstad Educati...

NQT and Experienced Primary Teachers Urgently required

£90 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: NQT and Experienced Primary Teac...

Year 1 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay, Free CPD: Randstad Education Sou...

Upper KS2 Primary Teacher in Bradford

£21000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Upper KS2 Primary Teacher...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor