The arrest of Katsuya Takahashi at an all-night Internet and comic book cafe brings to a close one of the longest-running manhunts in Japanese history and could shed new light on the subway attack and other crimes attributed to the cult, authorities said.
Takahashi, 54, was the target of a massive police sweep of the city following the June 3 arrest of Naoko Kikuchi, another longtime fugitive from the gas attack that killed 13 people and sickened 6,000. At least 5,000 police officers fanned out across the Japanese capital last week with a new photograph of Takahashi after learning, apparently from Kikuchi, that he was working for a construction company in the Kawasaki area.
Police had learned that Takahashi was a keen comic book fan and had concentrated on Tokyo's manga cafes, where patrons can use the Internet or browse comics round-the-clock. A worker at a manga cafe in Tokyo's Ota Ward recognized Takahashi from the image police had been showing, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported.
The photo was taken at an ATM in the city from which Takahashi withdrew $30,000 the day after Kikuchi's arrest, Asahi Shimbun reported.
The NHK network said Takahashi was wanted for other crimes as well as the subway attack, including the abduction and murder of a notary public in February 1995.
Takahashi was reported to have been a bodyguard for cult founder Shoko Asahara, one of 13 Aum Shinrikyo members on Japan's death row. Nearly 200 others have been prosecuted for their roles in crimes committed by the cult that Asahara created to prepare for an apocalyptic confrontation with the government.
Japanese broadcast media were abuzz with the news of Takahashi's capture. Legal analysts such as attorney Masaki Kito said that interrogation of the last Aum suspect could bring to light more detail of the cult's workings.
"He was a last piece of a jigsaw puzzle," the Associated Press quoted Kito as saying.
-- Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles
Photo: A shopper at a Tokyo electronics store watches television news coverage of the arrest of Katsuya Takahashi, the last wanted suspect in the March 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. Credit: Franck Robichon / EPA