Inside Aum Shinrikyo: Doomsday Cult That Microwaved 'Traitors' and Killed Dozens With Chemicals

© Sputnik /  / Go to the mediabankChizuo Matsumoto, the former leader of the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo
Chizuo Matsumoto, the former leader of the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.03.2022
The group had a syncretic belief system, meaning it combined different religions – Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity. In addition to that, members of the cult incorporated ideas from Yoga and the writings of Nostradamus.
Sunday marked 27 years since the Japanese religious movement Aum Shinrikyo carried out a gruesome chemical attack on more than a thousand passengers in the Tokyo subway.
On 20 March 1995, members of the doomsday cult boarded trains during rush hour carrying packages with sarin, a nerve agent banned by the United Nations Chemical Weapons Convention.

Seconds after the chemical compound was released, people started choking and vomiting. Some individuals became paralysed and almost a thousand experienced vision problems. The attack left 14 people dead, while more than 30 were severely injured.

The terrorist act came 15 months after members of Aum Shinrikyo killed eight individuals and injured more than 500 in the city of Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture. They sprayed a sarin aerosol that was released from a converted refrigerator truck. At the time, police didn't trace the attack to the group.

The history of Aum Shinrikyo looks very similar to other cults – at the centre of it stood a person who warned of an impending doomsday, saying only those who join Aum would be saved. But Shoko Asahara (nee Chizuo Matsumoto) was not just an individual, he claimed he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, while Shiva (one of the principal deities in Hinduism) had appointed him the god of light. He also alleged that he was able to levitate, while the group’s followers could read anyone’s mind.

In the 1990s, Shoko announces that Aum Shinrikyo would run in the general elections and was confident that it would gain seats in the parliament. However, the movement flopped, something Asahara blamed on an external conspiracy.

Reports say the loss led to a hardening of views inside the group, with Aum’s followers having begun to believe that the "unenlightened" did not deserve salvation. This stance also affected relations within the group – anyone who dared to voice opposition to the group's policy was reportedly beaten and subjected to cruel procedures. One of these involved people being “purified” in a bath of very hot water.

Around 30 members of the cult allegedly went missing, with reports saying their bodies were destroyed in a large microwave incinerator. Among the group’s followers was the president of the Okamura ironworks, as well as several chemists. They were tasked with producing chemical weapons in order to overthrow the government. The group not only produced sarin, but also VX, an extremely toxic synthetic gas.

Following the 1995 attack, police arrested Shoko Asahara and his close associates. On 6 July 2018, he was executed along with six other individuals. Asahara claimed he was innocent. On New Year’s Day 2019, a man rammed his vehicle into a group of pedestrians, injuring nine people, one of them seriously. Local media reported, citing people close to investigation, that the man did this intentionally as he wanted to avenge the executed members of Aum Shinrikyo.
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