Sarin Gas Attack in Tokyo: Terrorism in Japan

The last thing on your mind when you think of Japan is terrorist attacks perpetrated by some group of fanatics.

However, not even a safe country like Japan is safe from terrorist attacks.

The Tokyo subway sarin gas attack was an act of domestic terrorism perpetrated on March 20, 1995, in Tokyo, Japan, by members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult.

In five coordinated attacks, the perpetrators released sarin gas on three lines of the present-day Tokyo Metro during rush hour, killing 12 people, seriously injuring 50 and causing temporary vision problems for about 5,000 others.

The attack was directed against trains passing through Kasumigaseki and Nagatachō, the seat of the Japanese government.

Those responsible for the attack

Aum Shinrikyo (オウム真理教) is a Japanese cult founded by Shoko Asahara in 1984. Aum Shinrikyo, which split into Aleph and Hikari no Wa in 2007, has been classified as a terrorist organization by several countries, including Russia, Canada, Kazakhstan and the United States.

Terrorism in Japan - the sarin gas attack in Tokyo

In 1992, Shoko Asahara, founder of Aum Shinrikyo, published a book in which he declared himself "Christ," the only enlightened master of Japan, and identified as "Lamb of God."

He outlined a doomsday prophecy, which included a Third World War, and described a final conflict that would culminate in nuclear Armageddon.

The Tokyo Subway Attack

On Monday, March 20, 1995, five members of Aum Shinrikyo launched a chemical attack on the Tokyo subway, one of the world's busiest passenger transport systems, during the morning rush hour.

The chemical agent used, sarin liquid, was contained in plastic bags that each wrapped in newspaper.

A single drop of sarin the size of a pinhead can kill an adult. Carrying their bundles of sarin and sharp-tipped umbrellas, the perpetrators boarded their designated trains.

At different stations, the sarin packs were discarded and punctured several times with the sharp point of the umbrella.

Terrorism in Japan - the sarin gas attack in Tokyo

Each perpetrator then exited the train and exited the station to meet his accomplice with a car. Leaving the perforated packages on the ground allowed the sarin to escape onto the train and stations.

Sarin gas affected commuters, subway workers and those who came into contact with them.

Sarin is the most volatile of the nerve agents. This means that it can quickly and easily evaporate from a liquid to a vapor and spread to the environment.

People can be exposed to the vapor even if they don't come into contact with the liquid form of sarin.

Because it evaporates so quickly, sarin presents an immediate but short-lived threat.

On the day of the attack, ambulances transported 688 patients and nearly 5000 people reached hospitals by other means.

17 were considered critical, 37 severe and 984 moderately ill with vision problems.

Terrorism in Japan - the sarin gas attack in Tokyo

After the Sarin gas attack

By mid-afternoon, the slightly affected victims had recovered from vision problems and were released from the hospital.

Most of the remaining patients were well enough to go home the next day, and within a week only a few critical patients remained in the hospital. The death toll on the day of the attack was eight.

The sarin attack was the most serious attack against Japan. Considered the worst since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

This sparked widespread unrest and widespread fear in a society that had previously been perceived as virtually crime-free.

Some time after the attack, Aum lost its status as a religious organization, and many were apprehended.

The Japanese parliament rejected a request to ban the group. However, Public Security received funding to monitor the group and reduce the activities of those involved.

Terrorism in Japan - the sarin gas attack in Tokyo

Subsequently, 189 members were indicted, 5 were sentenced to life imprisonment, 13 were sentenced to death, 80 were sentenced to varying sentences, 87 were given suspended sentences, 2 were fined and one was found not guilty.

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