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20th anniversary Aum Shinriko first sarin attack

June 27, 2014 - JAPAN

Jun 27, 2014, marks 20 years since the Aum Shinrikyo cult began sarin nerve gas attacks in Japan. Its founder was Chizuo Matsumoto, who went by the name of Shoko Asahara.

He has been dodging the hangman through the appeal process. The anniversary might prompt the authorities to tie up this loose end. The 1994 attack, in a residential suburb, killed seven people and injured 500. The cult went on to kill 12 people and injure 50 the following year after releasing sarin on several lines of the Tokyo subway during morning rush hour. Though the death toll was minimal, the attacks traumatized the nation, underlining the particular revulsion and fear everywhere that are elicited by poison gas attacks. Recent events in Syria underline the point; the international community couldn't find the political will for a concerted effort to address a staggering death toll in the civil war until reports filtered through in 2013 that a relatively small number of civilians had died from sarin gas. Action since has centered on disposing of the stocks of gas.

FR See February 27, 2014

Profile: Shoko Asahara (BBC 2004)

Delays in executing Aum Shinrikyo founder (Ashai Shimbum 31 Jul 2013)

20th Century Cult Leaders (

UN reports says sarin likely used in Syria (Reuters, AFP, AP/DWW 13 Dec 2013)

Date written/update: 2014-01-20