Japan cult leader's hanging closes chapter on shocking crime

Tokyo subway workers offered silent prayer 20 years after the poison gas attack

The former leader of the Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) doomsday cult and several of its members were executed on Friday. "Thinking that makes me feel frustrated", Takahashi said.

A Japanese government spokesman confirmed the execution of Asahara.

He "lured young people, who felt a sense of emptiness in Japanese society", she said.

Under intensifying scrutiny from the government, the cult plotted the larger sarin attack on the subways in Tokyo on March 20, 1995.

Fortunately, mistakes made in developing the sarin and its delivery method meant the attack was far less effective than intended, and the group only succeeded in killing 12 and injuring 5,500 people.

The subway attack was the most notorious of the cult's crimes, which was blamed for 27 deaths in all.

The Aum Shinrikyo cult was founded by Shoko Asahara, also known as Chizuo Matsumoto (above).

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Friday that authorities are taking precautionary measures in case of any retaliation by his followers.

In 1995 it carried out a Sarin chemical attack that killed 13 people and injured thousands more.

Asahara and five of the six followers had been implicated in the subway attack.

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Aum Shinrikyo followers chant before a portrait of guru Shoko Asahara on July 19, 1999, at Aum's Adachi office in Tokyo.

Twelve other members of Aum Shinrikyo were sentenced to death for their roles in the 1995 attack.

In Japan, death sentences are not carried out until the verdict against all accused and accomplices are final, with no pending appeals left against any of the group. Last year, a court ruled that the Aum Shinrikyo no longer posed a threat to the public.

It renamed itself Aleph in 2000 and two splinter groups have been formed, including one established by high-profile former member Fumihiro Joyu. There are 117 convicts on death row.

Major Japanese media are reporting that some disciples of doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara have also been executed.

"The fear, pain and sorrow of the victims, survivors and their families - because of the heinous cult crimes - must have been so severe, and that is beyond my imagination", Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa told a news conference.

The Public Security Intelligence Agency's analysis is that all three groups are still under the influence of Matsumoto and continue to have unsafe characteristics.

They said his death could trigger the naming of a new cult leader, possibly his second son, and his followers could be elevated to the status of "martyrs" among the remaining adherents.

After he and 24 other AUM members unsuccessfully ran in the House of Representatives election in 1990 in an attempt to take over the state, he started planning mass murders of members of the public in revenge, according to the prosecutors.

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