Police arrest 6 more women in sect death

Tokyo, Japan - Police arrested six more female members of a religious sect in central Japan on Saturday in connection with the slaying of a fellow member who was beaten to death last month, police said.

Sushi restaurant owner Motoko Okuno, 63, died last month after a mass beating at the Kigenkai sect's headquarters in Komoro city, Nagano prefecture (state), local police official Toshio Gomyo said.

The six women arrested Saturday join 23 people already in custody in connection with the killing, including 21 other female Kigenkai members and Okuno's husband and daughter, who were also members of the sect, he said.

Earlier news reports suggested Okuno was killed as punishment for failing to carry out religious rites.

Kigenkai, founded in 1970, is based on Japan's indigenous Shinto religion and sells purified water the sect claims can cure diseases. It has about 400 members in branches across Japan, according to Japanese media.

Religious cults in Japan, a largely nonreligious society, have been linked to crimes and attacks.

A doomsday sect released nerve gas in Tokyo's subway system a decade ago, killing 12 people. That sect remains under surveillance by authorities.