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Tokyo gas attack suspect arrested after 17 years on run

By Katie Hunt, for CNN
June 4, 2012 -- Updated 0931 GMT (1731 HKT)
Naoko Kikuchi, a former member of Japan's Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult, had been on the run for 17 years.
Naoko Kikuchi, a former member of Japan's Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult, had been on the run for 17 years.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Naoko Kikuchi arrested after 17 years on the run
  • Member of a doomsday cult behind 1995 nerve gas attack
  • Attack on Tokyo subway killed 13 people and injured 5,500
  • Police say Kikuchi has admitted to helping make the gas

Hong Kong (CNN) -- A member of the Japanese doomsday cult responsible for the 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway has been arrested after 17 years on the run, Tokyo police say.

Naoko Kikuchi, 40, a follower of the Aum Supreme Truth Cult, was apprehended in the town of Sagamihara, a quiet residential area approximately 40 km west of the Japanese capital after a local resident tipped off police.

During a rush-hour attack on the morning of March, 20 1995, cult members released sarin gas that led to the death of 13 people and sickened more than 5,500 commuters.

Kikuchi has admitted to helping make the gas, which attacks the central nervous system, but was not aware how it would be used, Tokyo Metropolitan Police said. She was arrested on suspicion of murder and attempted murder.

Before her arrest, she was living in a small, shabby house made out of rusted metal panels, local TV footage showed. Another resident, a 41-year-old man, was arrested for allegedly hiding the suspect.

Police were tipped off early Sunday morning and made their arrest when Kikuchi returned home in the evening. They had recently doubled the reward available for information related to the suspects' whereabouts to 10 million yen ($125,000).

Kikuchi was one of two remaining cult members wanted for their involvement in one of the most shocking acts of terrorism in Japan's history. Katsuya Takahashi. 54, is the only Aum follower involved in the attack still at large.

Doomsday cult member surrenders to police in Japan

Another cult member Makoto Hirata, wanted for the murder of a notary official, unexpectedly turned himself in on New Year's Eve, stunning many in Japan.

More than 200 members of the cult were convicted in the wake of the gas attack and 13, including Shoko Asahara, the cult's blind guru, were sentenced to death. However, no one has been executed.

The cult now claims to be a benign religious group but at the height of its activities in the 1990s, it preached the world was coming to an end and that it must arm itself to prepare for various calamities.

It had stockpiled weapons and the gas attack was part of what the group thought was an apocalyptic showdown with the government.

CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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