Japanese cult leaders executed for sarin gas attack

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Logo of Aum Shinrikyo

Seven members of the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo, including its leader Shoko Asahara, have been executed for their involvement in a 1995 terrorist attack in Tokyo which killed 12 people and injured over 1,000 more.

On 20th March 1995, five members of the cult ruptured bags containing the chemical nerve agent sarin on trains in the Tokyo subway system at rush hour. The attack is thought to have been carried out to distract police forces from a planned raid on the headquarters of the cult and start the apocalypse.

Members of the cult had also previously carried out a sarin gas attack the previous year, where they attempted to assassinate judges expected to rule against them in a real estate dispute.

Six more members of the cult still await execution for their involvement in the attacks and previous murders linked to the group.

Aum Shinrikyo was a doomsday cult, believing that a third world war between the United States and Japan was imminent, culminating in a nuclear armageddon in 1997. According to the cult, only members of the cult would survive the ‘End Times’.

Asahara claimed to be able to cleanse followers of their sins and the group attracted disaffected young people, who worshipped him as a diety. However, followers had to hand their wealth to the cult for ‘safe keeping’. Some of this money was spent on producing LSD, used by its members and its leader to rid the mind of corrupted thoughts.

At its peak, 40,000 people followed the cult, which has since been classed as a terrorist organisation by the European Union, the United States and Russia.

The cult still exists in some forms under strict surveillance. Around 1,600 people still follow the cult’s teachings, but there have been cases where local authorities refuse to grant members access to social benefits. Right-wing groups in the country have also been reported to blast loud music outside apartments of followers.

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