Metro workers mark 21st anniversary of sarin gas attack in Tokyo

Kyodo

Tokyo subway workers commemorated the 21st anniversary Sunday of the Aum Shinrikyo cult’s deadly sarin nerve gas attack that killed 13 people and injured over 6,000 others in the capital.

Tokyo Metro Co. employees observed a moment of silence at Kasumigaseki Station and some relatives of victims laid flowers there to mourn those who fell in the terrorist attack on March 20, 1995. Two company employees were killed by the attack at the station.

“We shouldn’t forget the actions of those before us who acted to save people’s lives. We intend to continue doing our job to protect the safety of passengers,” area manager Mitsuaki Ota said.

After offering flowers at the station, Shizue Takahashi, 69, whose husband Kazumasa, an assistant stationmaster, died in the attack, told reporters that even though 21 years have passed, visiting the station caused her to feel as if it happened just yesterday. “The sadness I felt that day is still with me.”

Among those who laid flowers at the station were Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and transport minister Keiichi Ishii. “We should never let the incident be forgotten. We will do our utmost to prevent terrorism,” Abe told reporters later.

The subway operator set up a stand at Kasumigaseki, Kodemmacho and four other central Tokyo stations where lives were lost to allow people to offer flowers.

In the attack, the deadly nerve agent was scattered in five train cars during morning rush hour, causing mayhem at the stations, with many sickened passengers attended by emergency workers outside subway exits.

Death sentences have been finalized against 10 members of the cult, including Chizuo Matsumoto, the 61-year-old founder more commonly known as Shoko Asahara, in connection with the attack and other crimes, though none has yet to be carried out. Lifetime imprisonment has been finalized for four others.

Katsuya Takahashi, a former member who was captured in 2012 after 17 years on the run, has appealed to a high court a district court ruling that sentenced him to life in prison for his involvement in the nerve gas attack.

Aum renamed itself Aleph in 2000. Along with the other successor group Hikarinowa, or the Circle of Rainbow Light, Aleph remains under surveillance by public security authorities.

According to the Public Security Intelligence Agency, there are still about 1,650 followers in Japan and the group possesses about ¥900 million in assets.