Almost a decade after Aum Shinrikyo members released sarin on Tokyo subway trains, police in eight prefectures now have dedicated antiterrorism units to respond to nuclear, biological and chemical attacks.

The units have specialized equipment, including decontaminants and special vehicles, to protect them from dangerous biological and chemical substances, the National Police Agency said. The subway attack in 1995 killed 12 and injured more than 5,000.

The eight prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, each have an antiterrorism unit. The number of officers involved was not revealed.

The Metropolitan Police Department and Osaka Prefectural Police set up the first units in 2000. Prefectural police in Hokkaido, Miyagi, Kanagawa, Aichi, Hiroshima and Fukuoka followed in 2002, when the World Cup soccer finals were held in Japan and South Korea.

The NPA said Tokyo and Osaka police will each add another antiterrorism unit by March 2005.

Prefectural police riot squads are equipped with hazmat suits and equipment to detect biological and chemical substances.

The government has submitted a bill to the Diet to revise the Police Law so that the NPA can directly instruct prefectural police in the case of possible nuclear, biological or chemical attacks.

The government has compiled a manual to strengthen cooperation among the ministries and agencies. It addresses issues such as facilitating cooperation between police and fire departments in rescue efforts, conducting decontamination and dealing with requests for dispatching the Self-Defense Forces.

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