A Comeback For Deadly Cult?

As citizens mourned at ceremonies marking the third anniversary of a deadly nerve-gas attack on Tokyo's subway system, Japanese officials worried that it could happen again.

CBS News correspondent Barry Peterson reports Japan's officials fear that the Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult, blamed for the subway attack that killed 12 people and injured thousands, may be stockpiling more supplies of the nerve gas sarin and could use it again.

The cult's leader, Shoko Asahara, is on trial on 17 charges including murder in a case that could drag on for years. Meanwhile, Petersen reports, cult membership has grown to 2,000 followers in 20 branches across the country, The cult held 60 meetings last year, has launched a sophisticated web site and is making millions of dollars selling computers, police officials told CBS.

Retired FBI agent Harry Godfrey, who worked on the Aum case, says Japan may have made a mistake in not banning the cult. "Its members are still legally allowed to assemble, to operate and raise funds and gather new members, and I think that is a serious shortcoming," he said.

Concerns aboujt stifling religious freedom in Japan has prevented the government from acting, Petersen reports.

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto was among those who took part in the ceremonies Friday at six Tokyo subway stations. Laying a bouquet of white lilies in front of a plaque at the Kasumigaseki station honoring two subway officials who died trying to clear out the sarin, he said,"It is something that should never happen again."

He was among hundred of victims, relatives and railway workers who attended the memorial wreath-laying ceremonies.

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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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