On an ordinary Monday morning in 1995, millions of Tokyo residents on the way to work or school boarded trains on the second busiest subway system in the world. Only five people on the trains that morning knew that the events of March 20th would change the lives of nearly everyone commuting that day. Between 8:00 and 8:10 that morning, a simultaneous attack on five deferent cars, all set to converge on the Kasumigaseki station, a key location where several government ministries are located, killed 12 people, and injured another 5,000. The attacks were carried out by members of a religious doomsday cult known as Aum Shinrikyo (Aum), and consisted of vials of the nerve agent sarin thinly wrapped in newspaper. The five men who carried the packages, eleven in all, placed them on the train’s floors and in overhead compartments, punctured the vials with specially sharpened umbrella tips, and exited at the next stop. The sarin liquid leaked and quickly vaporized, making anyone who was near subject to darkened vision, ocular pain, nausea, miosis, hyperaemia, and nosebleeds (Seto, 2001). On that spring day in Tokyo, Aum succeeded in becoming the first non-state sponsored terrorist group to carry out a large scale indiscriminate chemical attack on a civilian population. The events of March 20th were not unprecedented, however. Aum engaged in various forms of biological and chemical attacks for five years before they attacked the innocent citizens riding the subway in Tokyo, however the signs were ignored and the group was able to continue developing deadly weapons and experimenting with effective delivery methods with remarkably little government and law enforcement suspicion until shortly before the 1995 attack. ...
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...een of particular note since Japan’s military is limited to a small Self Defense Force, and any legitimate need for weapons coming into the country was well documented. MSO operations concentrated on customs enforcement and shipping in and out of the ports of Vladivostok, Russia, and the major shipping ports in Northwest Japan. As it concerns weapons and military equipment import, MSO is not the only effort that could have been useful. Law Enforcement agencies in the United States, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, were well versed on the threat of domestic terrorism. Liaison between American and Japanese law enforcement agencies could have provided crucial insight to local authorities in how to recognize illegal weapons imports and the significance of such an operation.
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