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Bioterrorism and Biosecurity – Aum Shinrikyo Essay

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Updated: Mar 5th, 2022

The Aum Shinrikyo began their attacks in 1994 in Matsumoto where they used the refrigerator truck to release sarin near the homes of three judges who were overseeing a lawsuit that was predicted to go against the cult. This however left 500 casualties and 7 people were killed. The cult further unsuccessfully tried to use other biological weapons such as botulism and anthrax toxin to avenge and kill people. This was done to accomplish doomsday prophecies of its leader come true (Tucker, 2000, p. 2). In March 1995, Japan experienced a chemical and biological attack by the Aum Shinrikyo cult using sarin, a deadly nerve agent. It was around 8 am when a group of the sect entered the Tokyo subway and released the deadly biological weapons killing 12 people and injuring more than 6,000 people. The Tokyo subway attack was aimed to kill a massive number of policemen as there were rumors that they would conduct extensive raids against their facilities and for arresting 200 cult members. The deadly sarin chemical was packed in plastic bags and wrapped in the newspaper. Once placed on the floor of the subway, they were punched by an umbrella tip and allowed to spill on the floor. The liquid spread out followed by a vaporous agent throughout the hallway. In addition, the EMS personnel were affected with 33 being hospitalized and 135 symptomatic. The attack was highly organized and coordinated as it was marked as the most deadly assault by the mysterious sect. the attack occurred simultaneously in 5 subways of which they all converge in the center of Tokyo. This aimed at forming a jam around the station at Kasumagaseki that serves buildings occupied by Japanese government officials as well as headquarters for major industries and national police agencies (Milton, 1999, p. 149). The Aum sarin chemical weapon led by a chemist Masami Tsuchiya was a limited success. Although the facilities for production used were high-tech, later stages of production were accumulated by equipment failure and accidents which stopped production. This included toxic leaks which alerted police, ineffective subway attacks as a result of diluted sarin, and rushed production. The Aum dissemination was not effective and most failed considerably. The one suggested as the most effective was the primitive technique of puncturing bags using a sharp umbrella that left 12 people dead.

The cult both the chemical and biological weapons kill and pervasive sense of fear and insecurity to people. The Aum Shinrikyo sect had two laboratories, one at Kamakuishki and the other in Tokyo, for producing toxin to dabble many different biological agents. Here they cultured and dabbled with anthrax, cholera, Q fever, and botulinum toxin. The cult leader, Asahara, led a group of cult doctors and nurses to Zaire to learn more about Ebola and get the samples of the Ebola virus to be cultured in their laboratory. This preceded a Russian radio discussion of the possibility of Ebola as a biological weapon by the Aum cult. The effort of the biological weapon headed by Seichi Endo, a molecular biologist, was a total fiasco. Three biological attacks using botulinum toxin in Tokyo were unsuccessful and not a single person was affected. Later in the same year, Aum used the anthrax strain cultured by Endo. The two attempts to expose anthrax left no casualties (Milton, 1999, p. 155). The two terrorists failed to isolate the lethal strain of biological agents aimed to destroy lives. Endo was unable to obtain the toxin agent botulinum whereas Aum isolated the vaccine strain rather than the virulent one. In addition, many have analysts have despised his dissemination mechanism and concluded that they were not effective. It can be concluded with skepticism that the Aum group’s use of CBW was not a good return of investment since tens of millions of dollars were used to only kill 20 people. Thus becomes easy for the government to take security measures based on the statement “it’s not a matter of it, but when”. Frequent raids by policemen and military officials should be conducted in suspected laboratories to keep a regular check on production. The terrorists solicit donations, collect tithes, sell drugs and conduct training to devoted members. In trailing this information, the government can be able to know the people planning for the terror attacks. Terrorist groups have been broadly divided into two categories, domestic and international threats with different agendas to accomplish the terror act. The “lone offenders” who are mentally unstable are more likely to cause a domestic attack to seek revenge for either personal grievances or cause vendettas against others. Others are extremists of a certain group who believe in the violent overthrow of the government. The international threats are mostly state-sponsored terrorists, terrorists organization and loosely affiliated extremists who pose the most critical threat (Tucker, 2000, p. 6).


Milton, L. (1999). Aum Shinrikyo’s Efforts to Produce Biologica Weapons: A Case Study in the Serial Propagation of Misinformation. Terrorism and Political Violence, 11 (4), 149-158. Tucker, J. B. (2000). Toxic Terror: Assessing Terrorist Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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