Tokyo marks 15th anniversary of subway sarin attack


Tokyo marked the 15th anniversary Saturday of the sarin nerve gas attack on its subway system by Aum Shinrikyo cult members that left 13 dead and sickened some 6,300.

Some 20 station workers held a moment of silence at Kasumigaseki Station in central Tokyo at 8 a.m., roughly the hour when the cult members planted and ruptured plastic bags containing sarin on rush-hour trains on March 20, 1995.

Numerous government officials, including Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, victims and bereaved families visited the flower stands set up at five stations along the Hibiya, Marunouchi and Chiyoda lines, which were targeted in the attack. It is believed the attack was aimed at disrupting planned police raids on the group's headquarters at the time.

''It's been many years,'' said Shizue Takahashi, whose husband Kazumasa, 50, was killed after removing a bag of sarin as a senior official at the station.

Takahashi, 63, said she feels that her efforts to get support for the victims over the years have finally paid off. A landmark law was enacted in 2008, providing financial support of up to 30 million yen to each Aum victim and bereaved families who were left without benefits for 13 years.

But she noted that while they have state benefits now, ''it does not mean (the cult's) responsibility to compensate is gone,'' urging the cult to take responsibility.

Wataru Kitamura, chairman of an information security consultant firm in Tokyo, was among the victims who offered flowers at one of the stands.

Kitamura, 75, was exposed to sarin after connecting from the Chiyoda line to the Hibiya line on his way to work, and stayed in the attacked train for about 40 minutes without realizing what had happened.

He said he suffered various physical ailments, including weight loss and headaches. ''I know I cannot recover physically, but I try to stay firm mentally.''

Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Seiji Maehara spoke to reporters after offering flowers at the Kasumigaseki station located at the heart of the government district. ''As the person in charge of the ministry, I promised (the victims) to do my best to ensure transportation security, including taking antiterror measures,'' Maehara said.

Aum Shinrikyo was involved in a series of crimes, including the attack on the Tokyo subway system, and another sarin release in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994, for which death sentences have been finalized for its founder Shoko Asahara, 55, and nine other cult members.

Meanwhile, three other members -- Katsuya Takahashi, 51, Naoko Kikuchi, 38, and Makoto Hirata, 44 -- still remain at large, prompting the police to post cash rewards totaling 6 million yen for information that would lead to their arrests.

The group, which had over 10,000 members at its height, has renamed itself Aleph and has some 1,300 members today, while the Circle of Rainbow Light, a breakaway faction founded in 2007, has about 200 members, according to the Public Security Intelligence Agency.

Although the size of the groups have not changed much over the last decade, police continue to monitor their moves as they are now actively recruiting younger generations who may not know about or remember the Aum crimes.

Aleph, which reportedly still follows the teachings of Asahara, gained 100 new members last year, according to the agency.

Over the years, the climate surrounding the victims has changed as well, with the enactment of the benefits law, which also led to detailed work to track down victims, giving a clearer picture of the extent of the damage.

The injured came to some 6,300, instead of the previously estimated figure of over 5,000. Another victim who died in an accident several days after being exposed to sarin was newly recognized as being killed by the subway attack under the law, in addition to the 12 already counted as murder victims in Aum lawsuits.

© News reports

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Aleph, which reportedly still follows the teachings of Asahara, gained 100 new members last year, according to the agency.

I think they're waiting to reach the magic number before springing the trap on Asahara's gallows.

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They haven't killed him yet? Get a move on.

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It is true that the organisation (or it's offshoots) responsible is gaining popularity in Japan - I saw on the news that story which said they gained 100 new members last year. They are supposedly becoming quite popular in the 30-something set - presumably the unemployed? Those thousands left permanently injured may as well be dead - many are completely incapacitated with brain injuries and can't eat , move around or go to the toilet by themselves. Many also became blind. Absolutely horrible.

Why the reluctance among Japanese to call this "incident" terrorism?

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so sad ToT

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Very sad indeed. And whats more sad is that the people who did this are STILL on the run.

I wish the Japanese police would channel as much energy into catching these people as they did on other murderers (Ichihashi is the name that springs to mind.) 6 Million for a reward is nothing. If I recall, Ichihashis reward was 10M? And he only killed one person... (albeit a pretty foreigner.)

I would imagine the victims relatives must feel some discomfort by this.

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yeah they caught ichihashi but not the other three? and how come they started another cult, whats wrong with the police here?

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Why the reluctance among Japanese to call this "incident" terrorism?

What reluctance are you talking about?

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‘‘It’s been many years,’’ said Shizue Takahashi, whose husband Kazumasa, 50, was killed after removing a bag of sarin as a senior official at the station.

One train later and I would have lost a colleague. Rest assured, their time will come.

And then there is the cost of "restitution" in this society...

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Did anyone watch the documentary? Heavy stuff.

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I popped into the gents for an Eartha Kitt at 7:50, and when I came out the place was teeming with TV cameras, security guards, little men very pleased with their uniforms because they make them feel bigger.

I was a little taken aback by the coverage, although I confess I thought it was the people from the Guinness Book of Records at first. I could swear I took Stan Marsh's dad's title.

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