The Aum Shinrikyo is a Japanese ‘New Religious Movement Organisation’ but they are also labelled as a terrorist organisation in many countries across the world. The group originated in 1984, in Japan. It started as a cult where the founder and leader, Shoko Asahara, promised followers that they would have the power to hover or levitate if they joined. Since its establishment in 1984, it has committed at least two terrorist attacks. The group was popular in the 1990’s and had many members (10,000 in Japan and approximately 30,000 in Russia) but following the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, the numbers diminished due to the group being targeted by the police. They changed the name of the organisation from Aum Shinrikyo to Aleph.
The infamous Cult began in 1987 and was founded by Shoko Asahara. Aum Shinrikyo has elements of Buddhism and Christianity although Christians and Buddhists have no association to the group. The founder, Shoko Asahara, was born in 1957 and is partially blind. He spent his life studying acupuncture which is a common career in Japan for the blind. He was arrested by the Japanese authorities and held in prison for a short period for selling useless medicines to cure diseases, with the claim that they give the user special powers. He later travelled in the Himalayas where he supposedly learnt his divine powers and was teleported to the year 2006 where he spoke to soldiers who had survived World War III. Asahara formed the Cult in 1987 in a small yoga studio and convinced people that if they joined they would have special powers such as the ability to levitate and they would fight in World War III, which was to occur at the end of the millennium. Asahara grew a beard when he started the Cult as a way of appearing as a mystic. The reason the Cult was able to recruit so many members was that the vulnerable sought the belief that they could posse supernatural powers and could achieve a different life to the busy, non-stop working life of most people in Japan.
The Cult members were loyal to Asahara and treated him as a type of ‘Christ’. He brainwashed his followers and taught a range of extreme theories such as the doomsday and apocalypse that was his World War III. He brainwashed people into thinking that if they left they would die in the apocalypse and there were cases of members leaving and being killed by other members, acting on Asaharas orders.
In 2000, the name of the organisation was changed from Aum Shinrikyo to Aleph. Aleph is the first letter of the Jewish alphabet. It is somewhat of an enigma that they changed the name to Aleph as the group is strongly opposed to Judaism. The reason for the change of name served to prove to the public they had changed and were no longer Anti-Semitic and to recruit new members that were unaware of the Cult’s previous history. The Cult still exists today, although many countries such as Australia and the USA have placed Aleph and Aum Shinrikyo on terrorist alert lists. Interestingly, Japan has not classed Aleph as a terrorist organisation, yet and current worldwide membership as of 2005 is 1,650 according to Japanese government records.
The Aum Shinrikyo made sarin using over the counter products purchased at a chemist and processed themselves. The Aum Shinrikyo maintained large warehouses where they would develop nerve agents and other chemical weapons. The Cult even had a headquarters in Western Australia that was closed at the end of 1993. In Western Australian it is asserted they tested chemical weapons (Sarin gas and VX which is the most toxic nerve agent created and is classed as a Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) by the United States) on 29 sheep. The Cult also maintained chemical warehouses throughout Japan but in many cases, local residents petitioned for them to move away.
Tokyo Subway Sarin Gas Attacks
In 1995 the Aum Shinrikyo committed the first, and worst, of their terrorist attacks....