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Doomsday cult leader, followers executed for 1995 sarin attack in Tokyo subway

TOKYO -- Doomsday cult leader Shoko Asahara and several followers were executed Friday for their roles in a deadly 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subways and other crimes, Japanese media reported. Thirteen people died in the attack, while more than 6,000 were sickened with symptoms that included being blinded or paralyzed. 

The Justice Ministry said it could not confirm the reports, which cited unidentified sources. 

On March 20, 1995, members of the cult left punctured bags filled with liquid nerve agent on train lines going through Tokyo's political district. The toxin struck victims down in a matter of seconds, leaving them choking and vomitting, BBC News reports

In the following months, members of the cult carried out several failed attempts at releasing hydrogen cyanide in various stations.

Asahara was 63. It wasn't immediately clear how many others were hanged Friday. Scores of Aum Shinrikyo members have faced trial over the attack; 13, including Asahara, were sentenced to death, according to BBC News. Another six are serving life sentences.

Aum Shinrikyo, which means "supreme truth," began in the 1980s, mixing Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, and it later in elements of apocalyptic Christian prophesies. Asahara, also known as Chizuo Matsumoto, declared himself to be both Christ and the first "enlightened one" since Buddha. 

Japan granted Aum official status as a religious organization in 1989, and it picked up tens of thousands of followers worldwide. But it gradually became a paranoid doomsday cult, convinced the world was about to end in a global war and that only they would survive, according to BBC News. 

The attack shocked Japan, which prides itself on low crime rates and its multicultural society. 

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