Japan executes cult leaders of 1995 sarin attack

Tokyo subway workers offered silent prayer 20 years after the poison gas attack

Tokyo subway workers offered silent prayer 20 years after the poison gas attack

TOKYO-The head of a Japanese doomsday cult responsible for deadly gas attacks in the 1990s was executed on Friday, public broadcaster NHK reported.

He was the leader of the 40,000-strong Aum Shinrikyo cult, which sneaked plastic bags full of sarin nerve gas onto packed subway cars and burst them during the Monday morning rush hour.

The subway attack was the most notorious of the cult's crimes, which was blamed for 27 deaths in all.

Asahara was 63. It wasn't immediately clear how many others were hanged Friday.

The attack in 1995 woke up a relatively safe country to the risk of urban terrorism.

As the cult grew, the families of members began to raise the alarm, and complaints of brainwashing and abuse within Aum Shinrikyo became more common.

The Matsumoto attack was a warm up to the main event, which began nearly eight months later on March 20, 1995, according to a report by the Federation of American Scientists.

Chizuo Matsumoto, the cult's leader who went by the name Shoko Asahara, was the first to be hanged, media said as it broke into regular programming to report the news. Over the years, the group managed to lure in followers from some of Japan's top universities and boasted some 10,000 followers in Japan and another 30,000 in Russian Federation.

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As authorities tried to dismantle the cult, 191 other Aum members were charged for a wide range of illegal acts, including murder, attempted murder, abduction and the production of deadly nerve gases and illegal automatic rifles. Thirteen people died in the attack, while more than 6,000 were sickened with symptoms that included being blinded or paralyzed. Six other cult members remain on death row.

Virtually blind, he was seen as a charismatic speaker who cloaked himself in mysticism to draw recruits including doctors and scientists to the doomsday cult he developed in the 1980s. The sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2006.

Others keeled over, foaming at the mouth, with blood streaming from their noses. Five were executed for their role in Tokyo subway attack, while another was executed for his role in the group's other crimes.

At its peak, the cult had at least 10,000 members in Japan and overseas, including graduates of some of Japan's top universities. "One man was leaning against a pole, his shirt open, bodily fluids leaking out".

Rescue workers had to wear hazmat suits and gas masks to help the injured and deal with the poison.

They fear his death may trigger the naming of a new cult leader, possibly his second son.

During his eight-year trial, Asahara talked incoherently, occasionally babbling in broken English, and never acknowledged his responsibility or offered meaningful explanations. "We have to be on guard for a while", said Twitter user Chie.

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