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34 1994) and the costs may preclude similar construction of Aum Shinrikyo, which means "supreme truth," and members multi-bore tunnels in all but a few locations. began to view Ashara as their god. At its peak, the group was believed to have had close to 40,000 members in six countries. Ashara developed the group's primary aim of overthrow- References ing the Japanese government. The group experimented with Clifford, P. (1996, Dec. 23). "Profit Drive Causes Eurotun- a range of chemical agents, including variants of nerve agents, nel Disaster." The Militant. Available: http://www.themili such as sarin, tabun, soman, and VX. The group also explored tant.com/1996/6046/6046_18.html (Accessed Aug. 27, 2004). using hydrogen cyanide, phosgene, and mustard agents. The "Fired Up" (1994, Dec. 19). ENR: Engineering News-Record, group was believed to have settled on sarin primarily because 233, p. 31. it is relatively easy to manufacture. Group members working Jenkins, J. (1993, Jan. 29). "Apocalypse Tomorrow." New in Kamikuishiki, Japan, made the gas used in the attacks. Statesman & Society, 6 (237), pp. 2425. Group members made several attempts to use chemical Kirkland, C.J. (2002). "The Fire in the Channel Tunnel." weapons before their attacks on the subway system, initially Tunnelling & Underground Space Technology 17, 2 (Apr.), pp. targeting rival religious and cult leaders. On July 27, 1994, 129132. Aum Shinrikyo released sarin gas using a truck-mounted dis- McGillivray, G. (2001, May). "The Fire Within Tunnels." persal system located outside an apartment complex at Mat- Canadian Consulting Engineer, pp. 1822. sumoto, a city about 93 miles (150 kilometers) northwest of Roberts, M. (1996, Nov. 27). "Expandable Polystyrene Tokyo. The gas traveled through the open windows into the Involved in Channel Tunnel?" Chemical Week, 158, No. 46, p. 19. building, where occupants were sleeping. Seven people died, Tan, G.L. (2002). "Firefighting in Tunnels." Tunnelling & and 600 were sickened by the attack, which was intended to Underground Space Technology 17, 2 (Apr.), pp. 179180. assassinate judges who were expected to decide a land dispute that would have been injurious to group members. Despite a massive investigation, police were unable to trace 3.2.8 Subway Sarin Gas Attack the chemical agent to the group. Police later learned that the Location: Tokyo, Japan group had tested sarin on animals in Australia and had used Date: March 20, 1995 the Matsumoto attack to further test weapons. The police Incident Category: gas attack were still investigating Aum Shinrikyo at the time of the sub- Tunnel Length: N/A; attacks were in the subway way attacks. Fatalities and Injuries: 12 fatalities, 5,000 to 6,000 exposed to chemical gas Analysis of the Incident The attack occurred at the height of rush hour and used Synopsis approximately 1.9 gallons (7 liters) of high-grade sarin. The Aum Shinrikyo religious sect released five canisters of Occurring on a Monday morning on one of the world's diluted sarin, an extremely toxic chemical, disguised in lunch busiest commuter transport systems, the attack was intended boxes and soft drink containers on five separate trains during to affect hundreds of thousands of people and garner world- the Tokyo subway system's morning rush hour. Twelve people wide attention. Millions of people are transported on Tokyo's died, and between 5,000 and 6,000 people may have been subway; during rush hours, the trains are often so crowded exposed to the chemical. that it is virtually impossible for passengers to move. Ten male group members, working in two-man teams, were able to release sarin on five different subway lines that Analysis of Pre-Incident Information and Events merged at the Kasumigaseki station, which is the closest sta- Aum Shinrikyo was unknown to the public, especially out- tion to the Tokyo police headquarters. Five of the group side Japan, until the March 20, 1995, attack. The leader of the members released the gas, while the other five served as get- group, Shoko Ashara, was a half-blind former acupuncturist away drivers. The sarin was packaged in plastic bags and was who had turned to religion and mysticism. Born in 1955, he activated when each bag was punctured with an umbrella. was known as Chizue Matsumoto before he changed his Sarin packets were dropped on the Chiyoda line by a group name. In 1984, he founded the Aum Shinsen Club and member wearing a surgical mask typically worn on cold days. recruited 15 followers. Membership swelled into the tens of He punctured his bag of sarin at a station in the central busi- thousands in Japan, in the Soviet Union, and then in Russia ness district, killing two people and seriously injuring 231. and the newly independent republics that had been part of the The second sarin packet was released on the Marunouchi line. Soviet Union. Around 1987, the group changed its name to Despite passengers being removed from the train, the train
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35 continued to another station with the third car soaked with expected to be treated for the rest of their lives. Others suffered sarin. New passengers boarded the train and were affected permanent mental retardation and loss of motor control. until the train was taken out of service. One person died, and 358 were seriously injured. The third release, also on the Fire and Emergency Response Marunouchi line, was less successful, but when the train reached its destination at 8:30 a.m., searchers evacuated it Among the dozen victims of the attack, several were sub- but failed to find the sarin packets and allowed the train to way employees who tried to save others by removing the sarin remain in service. The train was not taken out of service until bags and were poisoned during their efforts. One of the vic- 9:27 a.m. In the fourth attack, a group member boarded the tims was an employee of the Teito Rapid Transit Authority first car of the 7:59 a.m. train on the Hibiya line. Three stops who was working at one of the stations that the trains passed after he punctured his packets, passengers began to panic. through. Despite these efforts, the incident exposed a lack of Although some passengers were removed and taken to the coordination among Japan's police departments and other hospital, the train continued in service with the empty first authorities that was similar to the problems that have become car. One person died, and 532 were seriously injured. common at major disaster sites. In the last attack, also on the Hibiya line, the group mem- Despite the efforts of individual employees, all emergency ber boarded the third car of the 7:43 a.m. train and released responders, including police, fire, and ambulance services, his three packets of sarin (all other attackers had only one were criticized for the handling of the sarin attacks. The sub- packet each) two stops later. It is possible that passengers were way authority was severely criticized for failing to halt trains affected immediately because he released more sarin than the despite reports of injured passengers. Some hospitals turned others did. At the next station, a passenger kicked the sarin away victims, and one was censured for failing to admit a vic- onto the platform, resulting in four deaths at the station. tim for almost an hour. The media were criticized because Sarin remained on the train, which continued on its route some who were reporting the story hesitated when asked to until a passenger pressed the emergency stop button at 8:10 transport victims to the hospital. Some of the confusion was a.m. Because the train was in a tunnel, it proceeded to the next attributed to lack of knowledge about sarin poisoning. stop. When the doors were opened, several people collapsed and the train was taken out of service. The train made five Criminal Justice System Response stops after the sarin was released, killing eight people and seri- ously injuring 275. Because the crime was premeditated rather than acciden- Although all the actions surrounding the attack took place tal, the police response was a large part of the incident after- on the subways, the group members had hoped that releasing math. The police raided Aum Shinrikyo locations and seized the gas on these particular trains would cause deaths in police a large amount of chemicals normally used in the manufac- headquarters and other government buildings in the imme- ture of sarin and mustard gases, VX, and other biological diate area. agents. There was also evidence that group members had been attempting to manufacture assault rifles based on the design of the Russian-made AK-47. Fatalities and Injuries Between the time Japanese authorities learned of Aum Victims left the trains and staggered onto platforms, vom- Shinrikyo and late 2004, more than 400 members of the iting and foaming at the mouth. Hundreds were dazed and group were arrested. About 100 have been convicted of blinded by the gas. In addition to the fatalities on the specific crimes, including attempted murder, kidnapping, wiretap- train lines, people affected by the sarin had a variety of respi- ping, and possession of illegal weapons. On February 27, ratory problems. They also suffered convulsions, paralysis, 2004, Shoko Asahara was found guilty and was sentenced to uncontrollable trembling, and high fevers. death by the presiding judge in Tokyo District Court. Forty- Sarin is an extremely deadly gas. The small number of eight years old when sentenced, Asahara, whose trial began in deaths (twelve) was attributed to the chemical being heavily 1996, was found guilty of 13 charges, one each for the 12 diluted. Two people died immediately after admission to the deaths that occurred and one additional charge. He was the hospital; the last death related to the incident occurred on twelfth member of the group to be sentenced to death. June 12, 1996, when a 52-year-old victim died in a Tokyo Throughout the trial he refused to answer questions and hospital. made only confusing statements about the incident. On May Long-term disabilities have continued to affect many of the 28, 2004, another group member, who had originally escaped injured, who report suffering disturbed sleep and nightmares, the death penalty, had his life sentence changed to the death sensitivity to light and other vision problems, loss of memory, penalty by a judge who ruled that the group member's role as and post-traumatic stress disorder, for which many are a coordinator of the attack made him as guilty as those who
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36 had actually released the gas in the subway system. The group The drugs were found to be in short supply, and only the most member's appeal to the Supreme Court of Japan is expected severe cases could be treated with the antidote serum. to take years to resolve. A review of the incident response also determined that The group was forced to release its property to pay decontamination procedures were lacking. Of the 1,364 victims' claims. This forced release of property was one rea- emergency medical technicians dispatched to the incident, son for the group's diminished membership and name 135 were secondarily affected. Twenty-three percent of the change. Despite attempts to force the group to disband medical staff at the hospitals where the injured were trans- under a 1952 anti-subversion law originally passed to out- ported later complained of symptoms and signs of secondary law communist groups, a government commission ruled in exposure. 1997 that Aum Shinrikyo no longer presented a threat to the The incident highlights the potential for creating mass ter- public. After parliament passed a law in December 1999 ror by an attack in a public transit system. The ease with permitting close police scrutiny of organizations that had which the sarin was released and the problems isolating the committed mass murder, the group changed its name to sarin, halting train movements, and handling large numbers Aleph. Aleph claims to have renounced violence and is of injured and hysterical patrons cannot be easily dismissed. primarily involved in yoga and meditation. It also maintains A transit system can never fully prepare for such incidents. a website to publicize it beliefs. Current efforts to create and place sensors to recognize chem- ical or biological weaponry may prevent some attacks, but the terrorists will always seek to devise new ways of bypassing Damage and Service Restoration sensors or using chemicals not yet detectable. Although Aum Shinrikyo had enough sarin to kill 4.2 million Since the sarin gas attack, more cities with mass transit people, only 12 people were killed in the attacks. The efficiency systems have become involved in cross-agency and cross- of the air filtering systems in the subway network was credited jurisdictional pre-incident planning and training. In addition, with keeping the number of fatalities low. transit agencies have become more receptive to placing anti- The subway system has permanently removed garbage cans tampering devices on their ventilation systems; closing off to prevent terrorists from placing bombs or nerve gas canis- open, nonpublic areas or public areas during nonpeak peri- ters there, but few other security measures have been under- ods; formalizing policies and procedures for stopping trains taken by the transit system or in government buildings. and taking them out of service; and launching passenger edu- The attack occurred less than 3 months after the Kobe cation and awareness campaigns to help recognize suspicious earthquake; many economists thought the two events would items or behaviors. Although these precautionary efforts are have a serious negative effect on what had been seen as a worthwhile, it is unlikely that any of the awareness campaigns rising economy. The two events also led to emotional ques- would have prevented the sarin attacks on March 20, 1995. tioning within the country, because many of the leaders of The attacks continue to have political repercussions in Aum Shinrikyo had attended top universities and were Japan. Pointing to the large financial payouts Americans viewed as elite members of a society in which status and posi- received after the September 11, 2001, attacks, protestors have tion are difficult to achieve. argued that the Japanese government should pay a larger price for not having taken the threat of Aum Shinrikyo seri- ously enough. Taking the threat seriously enough might have Conclusions resulted in actions that would have prevented the sarin Government studies of the incident found that the response attacks. to the disaster lacked coordination. A major reason for this lack of coordination was the vertical structure of Japan's soci- References ety, where each agency that responded (police, fire, hospitals, and other governmental units) acted independently under its "Death Penalty for Tokyo Attack (2004, May 28)." BBC own chain of command. This finding led to the formation of News. Available: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/asia-pacific/ a Severe Chemical Hazard Response Team to preclude a lack 3756037.stm (Accessed Nov. 16, 2004). of coordination and to encourage information sharing. Landers, P., Zaun, T., & Fialka. (2001, Sept. 28). "In 1995 Because the attacks were unique in their use of lethal gas, Tokyo Gas Attack, Lessons for the U.S." The Wall Street Journal, many of the post-analyses have focused on medical response p. A12. to the incident. Typical sarin poisoning symptoms are con- Onishi, N. (2004, Feb. 28). "After 8-Year Trial in Japan, vulsions, vomiting, loss of balance, double vision, and slurred Cultist Is Sentenced to Death." The New York Times, p. A3. speech. Hospitals treated the victims with drug inhibitors Policastro, AS.J. & Gordon, S.P. (n.d.). "Response to Criti- and antidotes, primarily atropine and two-pan chloride. cal Incidents and Other Emergencies." Available: www.apta.