Kunimatsu ambush remains a mystery

Three years ago Monday, Takaji Kunimatsu, then chief of the National Police Agency, was shot by an unidentified gunman and seriously wounded as he left his condominium in Tokyo’s Arakawa Ward for work.

The unprecedented assault on the highest national police authority remains a mystery, although investigators still believe Aum Shinrikyo was behind it. The ambush took place only 10 days after police launched a nationwide raid on the doomsday cult in connection with the nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 people and injured thousands of others.

According to the Metropolitan Police Department, people closely resembling senior Aum members were witnessed near the scene before and after the shooting. The cult members in question do not have solid alibis to rule out their involvement, MPD sources said.

Several former Aum leaders and rank-and-file cultists have also recently hinted the cult was involved, a ranking MPD official said. Since January, the MPD has increased the number of investigators covering the case by 20 to 130.

Still, police have been unable to obtain concrete evidence that could lead to a breakthrough in the case. A former MPD sergeant and ex-cultist later confessed to the shooting and told police he dumped the pistol used in the attack in Tokyo’s Arakawa River, but police divers combed the murky riverbed in vain, and the officer was never charged.

“Unless this incident is resolved, we cannot fully regain the public’s trust in the police organization,” an MPD official said. “Our investigation is not moving backward. It is making progress.”

Kunimatsu, 60, suffered three bullet wounds in the attack, and at one time was in critical condition. He recovered and returned to his job as NPA chief until he retired.