Tokyo Sarin Gas Attack Suspect Arrested, 17 Years Later

Naoko Kikuchi, a suspect in 1995 Tokyo subway gas attack, was arrested in Japan over the weekend.

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Kyodo/Reuters

Former Aum Shinrikyo cult member Naoko Kikuchi is seen in the picture taken in 1995 (L) and in 2012, in this combination photo released by Kyodo on June 4, 2012.

On March 20, 1995, a religious cult released lethal gas into Tokyo’s subway system during rush hour, wreaking havoc and causing the deaths of 13 people. Now, after 17 years as a fugitive, a member of the Japanese religious cult responsible for releasing the nerve agent has been arrested, Japanese news services reported Sunday.

While nearly 200 members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult have been convicted in the nerve gas attack — including its leader, Shoko Asahara –  the suspect, 40, was one of the last two fugitives of the cult to have escaped capture. Kikuchi, described as a senior member of the doomsday cult, was arrested Saturday night in Sagamihara, Japan’s Kyodo news service reported. She is alleged to have conspired with Asahara and others in killing 12 train passengers and a subway worker and injuring more than 5,500 others in the attack. Many victims still suffer from the effects of the nerve gas, which include paralysis, blindness, and cognitive damage.

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Kikuchi is being held in Tokyo on charges of murder and attempted murder. Her arrest comes five months after Makoto Hirata, another former Aum member, turned himself in to police after being on the run for more than 16 years. The remaining member on the wanted list is Katsuya Takahashi, 54, who is also suspected of involvement in the subway attack.

Asahi Shimbun reported that Kikuchi was identified after a woman tipped off police that a woman resembling her was living in Sagamihara. When police asked her whether she was Kikuchi, she simply said “Yes.” The person she was staying with was also arrested on suspicion of harboring a fugitive.

Aum founder Shoko Asahara and 12 of his followers sit on death row in Japan for their involvement in the attack. Kikuchi’s arrest could delay their execution as investigators hope to use fresh evidence to unearth more clues into the attack.

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