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Japan marks 27th anniversary of AUM cult's attack on Tokyo subways

2022-04-18 Source:english.kyodonews.net

Japan marked the 27th anniversary Sunday of the nerve gas attack by the AUM Shinrikyo cult on the Tokyo subway system that killed 14 people and injured over 6,000, as the country moves to increase the safety of railways following a string of recent random attacks on passengers by individuals.

Officials of the subway operator Tokyo Metro Co. and relatives of the victims observed a moment of silence at a memorial service at Kasumigaseki Station at 8 a.m., around the time when the deadly sarin nerve agent was released in train cars on March 20, 1995.


Shizue Takahashi, who lost her husband Kazumasa in the AUM Shinrikyo cult's 1995 sarin nerve gas attack, offers flowers at an altar at Kasumigaseki Station on March 20, 2022. (Pool photo)(Kyodo)

The doomsday cult's founder Shoko Asahara, who masterminded the attack, and 12 of his former followers were put to death in 2018.

In all, five train cars were hit simultaneously on three separate lines during the morning rush hour, causing havoc at the stations and paralyzing the subway network in the capital.

The cult was later divided into three successor groups that remain under surveillance by public security authorities.

Sunday's ceremony came as Japanese authorities and train operators review steps to protect passengers on their services, which had long considered among the safest in the world, following a string of random attacks by individuals in the Tokyo area in recent years.

On Halloween last year, a man dressed like Batman villain the Joker attacked passengers on a train with a knife and started a fire in one of the cars, injuring 17. In August, another man was arrested after injuring 10 passengers in a knife attack, telling police he wanted to kill women who looked "happy."

In 2015, a man set himself alight on a shinkansen bullet train, killing himself and a passenger and injuring 26 others. Around 800 were on the train at the time.

"I'm concerned that the sense of crisis is fading (among those who do not know about the sarin gas incident)," said Shizue Takahashi, 75, who lost her husband in the attack. He was the deputy stationmaster at Kasumigaseki at the time.

Takahashi has been requesting that the government archive materials related to the incident in order to inform young people about it.

The government plans to oblige railway operators nationwide to install security cameras in newly built trains and will shoulder the costs for doing so.

A revised ordinance, meanwhile, enabled operators to conduct baggage inspections from last year.

However, while the government has called on operators to implement such checks with passengers' understanding and cooperation, some experts say that it will be difficult to introduce at train stations the kind of checks seen at airports.