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Saturday, December 26, 1998 Published at 20:40 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Doomsday cult revival

Twelve died in the Tokyo gas attack - the cult has survived

The Japanese doomsday cult blamed for the 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo underground is renewing itself and plans to expand its power base, a Japanese government report says.

"Aum [Shinri Kyo) is actively attempting to bring back former members and recruiting new members on a nationwide basis," the Public Security Investigation Agency said.

[ image: A police raid on Aum - the cult is being monitored by the government]
A police raid on Aum - the cult is being monitored by the government
The sect is "initiating advertising campaigns and acquiring necessary capital," it warned, in a statement quoted by the Kyodo news agency.

The Public Security Investigation Agency has said the sect still maintains more than 1,500 disciples. It has a group of discount computer outlets whose sales amount to $34m a year.

No threat to society

The gas attack in Tokyo killed 12 people and injured thousands; the sect is also blamed for another attack in the central Japan city of Matsumoto in June 1994, which left seven people dead.

Aum Shinri Kyo, however, escaped being outlawed in January last year because a legal panel ruled it was "impossible to find sufficient reason" to believe the cult could still be a threat to society.

[ image: Cult guru Shoko Asahara - on trial for the gas attack]
Cult guru Shoko Asahara - on trial for the gas attack
Aum's spiritual leader Shoko Asahara, 43, is on trial in the Tokyo district court on 17 charges, including murder, while another top Aum member was sentenced to death in October for the murder of a lawyer and his family.

The dismantling of a nerve gas production plant set up by the cult was completed earlier this week. Over 30 pieces of equipment, including reactors and containers, were cut into small pieces and crushed by a contractor hired by the Japanese government. The demolition was also inspected by a United Nations chemical weapons team.

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