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Cult Members in Military Punished for Leaking Secrets

April 28, 1995

TOKYO (AP) _ The cult suspected in the nerve gas attack on Tokyo’s subways had two informants in the army who tipped off the sect to police raids, the military disclosed Friday.

One of the soldiers also admitted to staging a firebomb attack on the headquarters of the Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth) cult the day before the subway killings to disrupt a police investigation of the sect, officials said.

Fears of another terrorist attack grew, meanwhile, as the country prepared for a holiday week that begins Saturday. A quarter of the country’s police force was put on duty for the week.

Concern is high that whoever carried out the deadly subway gassing may strike again during the holidays, when millions use the nation’s trains and highways to visit their hometowns or resort areas.

The discovery of cult moles within the military was a new shock for authorities already under fire for the slow-moving investigation into the sect. And it was a major embarrassment for the military, which had secretly trained and equipped the police before a series of raids on the cult.

Police have yet to make an arrest or name a suspect in the March 20 subway attack, which killed 12 people and sickened 5,500.

Cult leaders have repeatedly denied any involvement. But raids at a cult commune have turned up tons of chemicals that could be used to make sarin, the nerve gas released on the subways.

``It is highly likely that sarin was made at Aum Shinri Kyo facilities,″ Kazuhiro Sugita, director of the National Police Agency’s Security Bureau, told government officials Friday, according to the Kyodo News Service. ``And the possibility cannot be denied that sarin is still being stored.″

More than a month after the attack, police are still looking for Shoko Asahara, the cult’s self-proclaimed messiah and guru.

Police searched for a third day Friday at a cult commune for a trap door that might lead them to Asahara.

When thousands of police raided cult facilities two days after the subway gassing, the cult’s leaders had already vanished, along with carloads of important documents and other potential evidence.

Officials began searching for an informant shortly afterward, when a cult magazine carried an article containing information only an active-duty soldier could have provided, they said.

The Defense Agency said the two sergeants leaked word to cult members that 400 airborne troops were mobilizing in advance of the March 22 police raids, officials said.

Sgt. Takahisa Shirai, 25, was expelled from the army for the firebomb attack on the cult headquarters and arrested on a related charge, officials said. The other informant, Sgt. Shinya Asano, 26, resigned, and it was unclear if police planned to arrest him.

Friday’s actions against the two may not end the military’s troubles. According to several Japanese media reports, the cult has more than 50 active or retired military personnel among its ranks.

Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama went on national television Friday to try to assure Japanese they could feel safe during the coming holiday week and to announce that 60,000 police will be on special duty.

``We have come to the final stages of the investigation,″ he said. ``We are taking the utmost security measures.″

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