Japan marks 13th anniversary of deadly subway gas attacks

TOKYO: Japan on Thursday marked the 13th anniversary of the 1995 deadly subway nerve gas attacks, with victims’ families and colleagues calling on the government for help.

Train staff held a moment of silence at the Kasumigaseki station, where two railway workers died as the Nazi-invented sarin gas was released into packed commuter trains during the morning rush hour.

In all, 12 people were killed and more than 5,000 injured, many of them severely, when the Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult attacked several stations and trains simultaneously.

The Kasumigaseki district of Tokyo is the centre of the Japanese government.

Shizue Takahashi, whose husband was the one of the two victims at the Kasumigaseki station, urged the government to do more to help victims, saying it was responsible for failing to prevent the attacks.

“Somehow, I want the government to do what it can to bring brighter future for the victims,” she told reporters.

Relatives of the victims, some of whom remain bed-ridden or unable to communicate, this week called for more assistance, saying they had been neglected while many members of the cult walked free.

So far, 13 members of the cult have received death sentences, including its leader Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto.

But police are still searching for several members over various crimes, including the gas attacks.

The cult was founded by Asahara, a bearded, half-blind former acupuncturist who preached of a coming apocalypse.

After the subway attack, the Aum cult renamed itself Aleph — after the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet — and deposed Asahara. But authorities say hardcore followers still revere him.

An annual police report on the cult said last year the Aum Supreme Truth remained active, with about 1,650 followers in Japan and about 300 in Russia.

The sect is legal but remains under close surveillance, with authorities warning in the past of potential unrest when Asahara is executed.

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AFP (France), via ChannelNewsAsia.com (Singapore)
Mar. 20, 2008

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