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4 more companies receive envelopes containing cyanide; extortion suspected

Tokyo's Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) headquarters (Mainichi/Kazuo Motohashi)

TOKYO/OSAKA -- Four more companies were confirmed to have received envelopes containing a white powder thought to be potassium cyanide, bringing the total number of firms targeted to more than 10, police revealed on Jan. 28.

Police suspect that the envelopes are all the work of the same person, and are investigating the case as attempted extortion.

According to Tokyo's Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and Osaka Prefectural Police, the newly confirmed targets are a pharmaceutical firm and a food company in Tokyo, and two pharmaceutical companies in western Japan's Osaka. Each envelope contained white powder and a message demanding money. The notes made the demands under the names of leading members of the AUM Shinrikyo, the cult behind the March 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway among other crimes.

Envelopes of the same kind were sent on Jan. 25 to pharmaceutical companies in Tokyo, Osaka and Sapporo, capital of the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, as well as The Mainichi Newspapers' Tokyo head office.

(Japanese original by Shota Harumashi, City News Department, and Haruka Ito, Osaka City News Department)

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