Lessons Learned: Tokyo Sarin Gas Attack

Lessons Learned: Tokyo Sarin Gas Attack

On March 20, 1995, Aum Shinrikyo, a religious cult based in Japan, used chemical weapons in a terrorist attack on Tokyo’s subway system. During the morning rush hour, five cult members carried bags of liquid sarin into Tokyo’s subway and pierced the bags with the tips of their umbrellas, allowing the deadly nerve agent to evaporate and spread. The attack killed twelve people and injured thousands more.

James M. Lindsay, CFR’s senior vice president and director of studies, argues that the 1995 sarin gas attack serves as a reminder that technology now “makes it possible for groups and individuals to carry out the kinds of attacks that once only government could undertake.” Concerns over the spread of such technology, he says, lie at the heart of the current debate surrounding the manipulation of the H5N1 bird flu virus in laboratories. Such debates will continue to “grow more heated,” he predicts, “as technological advances make it possible to do more and more with less and less training.”

This video is part of Lessons Learned, a series dedicated to exploring historical events and examining their meaning in the context of foreign relations today:

To learn more about Aum Shinrikyo, read this backgrounder:

For more analysis from CFR’s James M. Lindsay, visit The Water’s Edge blog: