Tokyo marks 25th anniversary of subway nerve gas attack

TOKYO (AP) — Relatives of victims prayed silently on Friday to observe the 25th anniversary of a nerve gas attack on Tokyo’s subways that killed 13 people, but a larger commemoration was canceled because of the country’s coronavirus outbreak.

The attack by the cult Aum Shinrikyo on March 20, 1995, injured thousands of people and forced a relatively safe country to confront the risk of urban terrorism.

On Friday, subway workers lowered their heads in silence at Kasumigaseki station, a main target of the attack. Shizue Takahashi, the 73-year-old widow of an assistant stationmaster who died, laid flowers on a temporary altar.

“Even though I can’t see my husband in person, he has always been with me over the past 25 years. From now on I will quietly look back at my memories with him and restart time that has stopped all these years,” she said.

A larger commemoration she had planned with other bereaved families had to be canceled due to the coronavirus. Takahashi said they had rehearsed the event many times and that it was to be their last.

In the attack, members of the cult used umbrellas to puncture plastic bags containing sarin, a deadly nerve agent, inside subway cars as they approached Kasumigaseki, the main government district.

Cult leader Shoko Asahara and 12 of his disciples were hanged in 2018 for the attack and other crimes.

The cult, which envisioned overthrowing the government, had amassed an arsenal of chemical, biological and conventional weapons in anticipation of an apocalyptic showdown. It was blamed for a total of 27 deaths before authorities raided its compound near Mount Fuji in 1995 and captured Asahara.