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Officials: Doomsday cult member surrenders to police in Japan

By Yoko Wakatsuki, CNN
updated 5:38 AM EST, Mon January 2, 2012
Makoto Hirata (C) a former senior member of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult was arrested after almost 17 years on the run.
Makoto Hirata (C) a former senior member of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult was arrested after almost 17 years on the run.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Makoto Hirata has been on the run since 1995, authorities say
  • Hirata is described as a former senior member of Aum Shinrikyo
  • The group is behind the 1995 subway gas attack in Tokyo

Tokyo (CNN) -- A former member of a Japanese doomsday cult wanted for the murder of a notary official surrendered after nearly 17 years on the run, authorities said Sunday.

Makoto Hirata turned himself in late Saturday in Tokyo, according to a metropolitan police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity -- as is the practice among Japanese police.

Hirata is described as a former senior member of Aum Shinrikyo, or Cult of the Supreme Truth, the group behind the 1995 sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway. The attack left more than a dozen people dead and thousands injured.

The cult now claims to be a benign religious group. 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.

A number of the cult's senior leaders were jailed in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Hirata, 46, has been on the run since February 1995 when authorities say he and other members of the cult kidnapped a chief clerk in a Tokyo notary office.

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