The Sarin Gas Attack in Japan and the Related Forensic Investigation

By Dr Yasuo Seto

When Shoko Asahara established Aum Shinrikyo, a cult in Japan, and started to disseminate a doctrine that is unique to the people of Japan, he started to build a terrorist group. The group as developed with an aim of killing an individual to stop him/her from continuous evil deeds. The cult expanded across Europe and had approximately 30,000 members which could finance its activities.  The cut was able to develop a well equipped laboratory at Satyan Seven. Top quality equipments were installed into the laboratory giving the capability to produce biological agents such as Sarin nerve gas and anthrax which they tested on sheep. It is believed that even before the Sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo Subways, the cult attempted several chemical and biological releases which went undetected by the concerned parties.

The intent of the release of the Sarin Nerve gas by the Aum Shinrikyo was to eliminate three judges who took part on the hearing involving them. This formed the basis of them releasing the hazardous gas into the residential area of which the three judges were residents. Seven people died in the incident and several hundreds were injured during the incident. The main reason of using biological agent in warfare is to register casualties which the cult achieved. However the cult members did not achieve their main reason of using chemical and biological agents, which was to overthrow the government that they lost to in the past elections. Most of them were arrested and the ones that remained had their influence suppressed even though they still pose a threat to the humanity.

The sarin nerve gas was delivered effectively by the cult members because they packaged them into containers that resembled those of drinks and lunch bags. The containers were then placed on a refrigerator truck. They delivered the gas by releasing it from the back of the refrigerator truck. In this way, their mission was completed uninterrupted by anyone. Other terrorists may also choose to use sarin gas because the information is in the internet and it is difficult to detect making casualties vulnerable.

The residents and the users of the subways and the residential area that the sarin nerve gas was released by the cult members were vulnerable and could not detect any change. The caught the public unaware because this gas was released in urban set up. Sarin is tasteless, colorless and clear and evaporates as fast as water making it extremely difficult to detect. In liquid state, sarin can penetrate through skin and clothing and through the lungs when in gaseous state. A person can be affected by sarin through inhalation, ingestion of skin making anyone who gets in touch with it vulnerable. The police were also vulnerable because they could not investigate the effect of this gas effectively. The people who encountered the highest concentration of the sarin gas during this attack formed the worst casualties because its effect is determined by amount of concentration.

When the attack was conducted several people became casualties with seven people reported dead and several diagnosed with symptoms such as muscle weaknesses, nausea, blurred vision and headache. Approximately twenty percent of the nurse who attended to the victims of this attack also contacted secondary contamination due to sarin nerve gas. The government of Japan was caught unaware when this attack was carried out making so many people to get infected. The intended effects were achieved by the cult when they released Sarin gas.



“Aum Shinrikyo: Lessons to be learnt” Oppenheimer (2004)