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News Briefs, part 1

Police Raids Bring Relief To Sect's Rural Neighbors

Los Angeles Times

Fear still lingers in this once-peaceful village near the foot of Mt. Fuji. But six years of open conflict between the secretive Aum Supreme Truth religious sect and local farmers terrified by its activities is finally ending in victory for the locals.

As police conducted successive raids on sect buildings Wednesday and Thursday, discovering huge caches of suspicious chemicals, a mood approaching jubilation remained just below the surface among village residents.

"We were hoping and hoping that the police would act," said Mitsuko Nozawa, 39, a dairy farmer's wife who lives within sight of some of the Supreme Truth buildings. "We feel, They finally came!' We were frustrated that even though the Aum followers were always doing terrible things, the government wasn't taking any action."

But the drama - and the fear - hasn't ended yet, Nozawa noted.

"Now we feel apprehension and happiness mixed together," she explained. "I'm afraid that if they're in a position from which there's no escape, they might do something unimaginable, for ordinary common sense means nothing to them."

Indeed, said Mayor Katsumi Watanabe, an anonymous warning was telephoned to a government office Thursday, threatening that unless police raids were halted the village headquarters would be bombed and all the people in Kamikuishiki would be poisoned.

But the threat did nothing to shake the widespread feeling that, in all probability, this village will soon be freed of the despised sect center.

The rural quiet of Kamikuishiki, a sprawling community of small dairy and cattle farms and lake resort hamlets, was still being shattered Thursday by wailing police sirens, the presence of hundreds of riot officers in camouflage and dozens of heavy-duty, wire-windowed police buses parked on a road near the Supreme Truth main building.