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IN BRIEF: Japanese cult leader and followers executed

July 6, 2018
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FILE - This combination of file photos shows Aum Shinrikyo cult leader Shoko Asahara, from top left to right, his cult members, Tomomasa Nakagawa, Seiichi Endo, and Masami Tsuchiya. Other members from bottom left to right, Yoshihiro Inoue, Tomomitsu Nimi, and Kiyohide Hayakawa. Japan executed the leader and six followers of a doomsday cult Friday, July 6, 2018, for a series of deadly crimes including a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway that killed 13 people in 1995. (Kyodo News via AP, File)

Japan hanged seven death row inmates Friday: Shoko Asahara, the leader of a cult blamed for 27 deaths including a poison gas attack on Tokyo’s subways, and six of his followers.

THE CULT

Asahara founded the Aum Shinrikyo cult in 1984. His mix of Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity and social disillusionment attracted thousands of followers. They amassed an arsenal of chemical, biological and conventional weapons to carry out his vision of overthrowing the government to save the world from a doomsday he said was coming.

THE CRIMES

The cult developed sarin, a nerve agent, and members released it in Tokyo’s subway system in 1995, killing 13 people and sickening thousands. In a series of trials, Asahara and 12 of his followers were sentenced to death for this and other crimes. Six remain on death row after Friday’s executions.

WHY IT MATTERS

The Tokyo subway attack, while an aberration, woke up Japan to the risk of urban terrorism. The execution of Asahara brings to an end the long saga of his eight-year trial and 14 years on death row.

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