20 years on, first Aum sarin attack offers lessons today, survivor says

AFP-JIJI

Friday marked the 20th anniversary of Aum Shinrikyo’s first deadly sarin gas attack. Within a year the group attacked the Tokyo subway system.

The 1994 attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, targeted a judge who was handling a civil suit against the doomsday cult. Seven people died, but the judge survived.

“It’s impossible to prevent memories from fading . . . but there were lessons learned from it, and I think we should make good use of those lessons,” said Yoshiyuki Kono, one of the survivors, told NHK.

It was regarded as the world’s first terrorist attack using nerve gas against civilians in peace time.

On the night of June 27, 1994, Aum members released sarin in Matsumoto, aiming both to kill the judge and to test the potency of the home-brewed nerve gas.

In addition to the seven who died, Kono’s wife suffered nerve damage and died in 2008 after years of suffering. The attack injured about 600 people.

The incident horrified and puzzled investigators unfamiliar with nerve gas. They initially drew no connection to the cult, which was being led by Shoko Asahara.

Although Kono was the one who reported the attack to the police, he became regarded as the prime suspect.

On March 20, 1995, it carried out the sarin attacks on the Tokyo subway system, killing 13 people and injuring thousands.

Thirteen Aum members were convicted and remain on death row.