Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tokyo Police Got Gas Masks the Day before Subway Attack

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tokyo Police Got Gas Masks the Day before Subway Attack

Article excerpt

Tokyo police requested thousands of gas masks and protective gear from the army and underwent special, secret training in how to use them the day before the deadly nerve gas attack on the city's subway.

A Japanese army spokesman said Friday that the unusual request was made in advance of a series of raids police planned on sites connected with the Aum Shinri Kyo - Supreme Truth - religious sect.

Police have not openly linked the apocalyptic group to Monday's gas attack, which killed 10 people and sickened more than 5,000. But in three days of nationwide raids, they have seized hundreds of barrels of chemicals from cult facilities and millions of dollars in cash and gold. Experts say the chemicals can be used to make the nerve gas sarin, which was used in the subway attack.

On Friday, police in full chemical-protection gear raided compounds in Osaka, Japan's second-largest city, and elsewhere. The chemicals seized included an agent used to neutralize nerve gas, reports said.

Authorities have said the raids were prompted by an unrelated kidnapping case. But the request for protective gear and training suggests police suspected the sect was involved with dangerous chemicals.

Japanese media reported that the police request was directly linked to fears that the sect had sarin and might use it to repel the raids, which began Wednesday.

The newspaper Mainichi quoted unidentified police sources as questioning whether Monday's subway terror may have been retaliation for Sunday's special training session.

The sect has denied any role in the subway attack. Its leader, Shoko Asahara, said Friday that the chemicals seized from his group were used for manufacturing plastic, pottery and pesticides.

"Police are trying to damage our reputation," Asahara said in a videotape shown on Japanese TV. Asahara, whose whereabouts are unknown, accused authorities of bashing the sect.

But an American chemical weapons expert who came to Japan to investigate the subway attack scoffed at the denial. …

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