Four members of a religious sect were arrested Thursday in connection with the death of a fellow cultist in September, according to Tokyo police.

The four include Keroyon sect leader Yuko Kitazawa, 40, and Masataka Fujibayashi, 35, a former Aum Shinrikyo member. They are suspected of inflicting injury resulting in the Sept. 10 death of a 36-year-old woman who had been an Aum Shinrikyo member before she joined Keroyon, police said.

Keroyon follows the teachings of Aum founder Shoko Asahara.

Investigators searched 13 locations in connection with the case, They took five boys — ranging in age from 6 to 13 — into custody, and notified local child welfare authorities. Police said the action was because the arrests would deprive the children of their guardians.

Investigators said the four suspects allegedly conspired to inflict fatal injuries on the woman by beating her with a bamboo sword at an apartment in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward.

The beating was supposed to remove the victim’s “bad karma,” police said, adding that Kitazawa was not involved in the actual beating. The woman’s body was found in an apartment in Nerima Ward.

After the incident came to light in late September and the results of an administrative autopsy having shown that the woman had died under mysterious circumstances, Fujibayashi told a local police station that the woman died after being beaten with a bamboo sword during religious “training,” the police said.

The cause of death has not been established.

But investigators, believing that she died as a result of the beating, arrested the four, sources close to the investigation said.

Although Aum renamed itself Aleph in January 2000 in an effort to distance itself from its criminal image, it remains under the surveillance of the Justice Ministry’s Public Security Intelligence Agency.

Most of Keroyon’s members are former Aum cultists.

Senior Aum cadres have been convicted of a series of crimes, including the 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system.

Keroyon follows the teaching of Asahara, although the group is engaged in separate activities from Aum, according to the agency.

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