Fumihiro Joyu, the nominal head of the Aum Shinrikyo cult that launched the deadly sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, may be attempting a comeback, police sources said Sunday.

Joyu, 42, became the cult’s leader in January 2002 but passed day-to-day management to a five-member council in October 2003 after many cultists spurned his move to distance the group from its founder, Shoko Asahara, who has been sentenced to death for the subway attack and other crimes.

But according to the sources, some group members have since questioned the leadership of the five executives, two of whom were arrested in July 2004 and last June for allegedly violating an employment law and other infractions.

With the group growing anxious about its future, Joyu told close aides around October to circulate e-mails saying he must return to power to overcome the leadership crisis, the sources said.

He also began a Web blog in February and repeatedly held meetings with group members to explain his plans to run the cult, according to the sources. The group changed its name to Aleph in 2000.

Joyu is said to be claiming that the cult should undertake charity work to help it reintegrate into society.

Two of the executives are believed to be opposed to Joyu making a comeback.

“We need to monitor the growing confrontation between Joyu supporters and opponents,” a public safety official said.

After the police began its probe into Aum in March 1995 following the gas attack, Joyu became a prominent media spokesman, offering eloquent rebuttals to police charges.

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