18th anniversary of Aum Shinrikyo subway gas attack remembered in Tokyo

By Cherrie Lou Billones Japan Daily Press

Tokyo Metro and police officials held a short ceremony in the Kasumigaseki station of the subway to observe the 18th anniversary of the sarin nerve gas attack executed by the religious cult Aum Shinrikyo that resulted in the death of 13 individuals and the injury of some 6,300 others. Flowers were placed at the station, and at 8 a.m.—the time it happened on March 20, 1995—a one minute silence was observed.

One of the attendees was Shizue Takahashi, whose husband was then a subway official and a victim of the incident. “Eighteen years have passed, but the memory of that day is still vivid,” she said. “I still feel the shock as if the incident happened yesterday.” Of the thousands of people injured when the attack took place, some had been permanently disabled after inhaling or coming into contact with the gas whose purpose is mainly to cripple the nervous system.

The cult, which obsessed itself with apocalyptic visions, was founded in 1984 by one Shoko Asahara. After the Tokyo subway massacre, he was arrested and sentenced to death by hanging. Twelve other members who had a connection to the incident were also meted with death penalties, but none has yet to be carried out. Amazingly, after successfully evading arrest for 17 years, Katsuya Takahashi, the last fugitive involved in the attack, was caught and arrested in Tokyo in June 2012 after one final two-week-long police hunt.

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