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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Aum Hunt Reveals Gas Cache

TOKYO -- Police investigating the rural hideout of arrested cult leader Shoko Asahara have found a hidden underground chamber with a giant cache of nerve-gas ingredients, reports said Thursday.


The 275 drums of chemicals found in the secret basement indicate that Asahara's group, Aum Shinrikyo, intended to produce nerve gas in massive quantities, the newspaper Asahi reported.


Asahara was arrested Tuesday after police found him hiding in a tiny steel-plated compartment inside the building at the cult's Mount Fuji compound. Later, the nerve gas ingredients were found in a basement room that had been sealed with concrete, news reports said.


Asahara himself was undergoing questioning Thursday and indicated he may try to shift blame away from himself for the March 20 nerve gas attack on Tokyo's subways, which killed 12 and sickened 5,500. "Do you know what all of your underlings are doing?'' media reports quoted him as asking his interrogators. "I have so many followers, it's impossible for me to know what everybody is doing.''


Until then Asahara had denied to a lawyer that neither he nor any of his followers had made nerve gas.


The turnaround came amid indications that Asahara's top lieutenants are now pointing the finger at their leader. His jailed deputies are telling police he ordered the subway attack, media reports say.


At a closed hearing Thursday, police were granted permission to interrogate Asahara for another 10 days, after which they can apply for an extension.