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Japan remembers subway gas attack, 20 years on

Japan commemorated the 20th anniversary of the fatal nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway. Members of the doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo released sarin nerve gas that killed 13 people and injured more than 6,000.

"Twenty years have passed, but I think the victims are still suffering," said Fumiko Suzuki, who paid tribute to a friend heavily injured in the attack, in which thousands of commuters were unknowingly exposed to the invisible clouds of sarin that spread through rush-hour trains.

Relatives and subway works observed a moment of silence at Kasumigaseki station on Friday morning, to mourn the victims who died in the biggest attack in Japan since the World War II.

Kasumigaseki station chief Mitsuaki Ota led tributes to Tokyo Metro worker Karumasa Takahashi who picked up a punctured packet of the nerve gas from the floor of one of the trains. Takahashi and another subway employee died in the attack that day.

"It's possible we'll face the danger of a terror attack. I want people to be aware," Takahashi's widow, Shizue, said after laying a flower on a makeshift altar.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga underlined the government would do its best to prevent a similar attack from happening.

On March 20, 1995, the members of Japan's doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo released Nazi-developed nerve gas in the Tokyo subways during morning rush hour. Thirteen people died and 6,000 were sickened after inhaling sarin gas.

Despite many trials over the last two decades that have put 13 people, including cult leader Shoko Asahara, on death row, people in Japan still puzzle over the reasons for the attack.

Thirteen people died when cult members launched a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway

Thirteen people died when cult members launched a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway

To date, 192 of the cult's members have been indicted on charges including murder, abduction, the production of weapons and creating nerve gas. Fours are serving life sentences.

Aum Shinrikyo claimed to have 10,000 members in Japan at the time and 30,000 in Russia.

The group was declared bankrupt in 1996, but its former member established a new group called Aleph in 2000. However, in 2007, Fumihiro Joyu, who was the chief spokesman for Aum Shinrikyo, decided to leave the group and found Hikari no Wa Movement.

The two groups continue to operate under close police surveillance.

jil/sms (dpa, AFP)

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