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RAIDS PUT PRESSURE ON JAPANESE CULT

As police staged one of their biggest searches yet, the leader of a cult suspected in a deadly gas attack on Tokyo's subways warned Wednesday that the gods will "explode with anger" if the pressure continues.

More than 1,300 officers nationwide participated in raids on 88 offices, yoga centers, communes and other facilities run by the Aum Shinri Kyo cult, which police believe produced sarin, the type of nerve gas used in the March 20 subway attack.Police confirmed seven cult members were arrested, including Masami Tsuchiya, who headed Aum's extensive experiments with chemicals and its sarin research, and Seiichi Endo, an Aum leader and biologist.

Both were arrested on suspicion of sheltering escaping criminals.

For the first time, police confirmed they were conducting the raids in connection with possible "preparation for murder" charges. They said they were seeking 10 members of the cult's Science and Technology Ministry.

Authorities are believed to be pursuing the relatively light charge, which carries a maximum two years in prison, because it can be sought even if they fail to link the cult directly to the subway deaths.

They would need to prove only that the cult was producing nerve gas. They seized all the necessary ingredients from cult property in earlier searches.