Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies
(Editor's note: In his recent assignments in Korea, Japan, Kurdistan, Iraq, Cyprus and Denmark, WorldNetDaily international correspondent Anthony C. LoBaido gathered information for this analysis of the shadowy world of the Aum Shin Rikyo cult.)
While the practice of traditional religions wanes in much of the West, one influential, violent cult headquartered in Japan -- Aum Shin Rikyo -- is raising eyebrows in intelligence agencies the world over.
The CIA, in fact is undertaking a global survey of apocalyptic cults in earnest. The intelligence agency says there are no less than 1,200 active cults on Earth. More than a quarter of them spread "doomsday" or "end times" dogma.
Apocalyptic cults are a serious concern, not only to the CIA, but to the FBI. Director Louis Freeh told Congress he feared some cults were willing to wage an "apocalyptic struggle" between what in their view were the spheres of good and evil.
Scores of cults have appeared on the scene in recent years. Who can forget Jim Jones and his Kool-Aid suicide cult in Guyana where 900 perished? Then came the Heaven's Gate group, which committed mass suicide while waiting for a UFO they believed was trailing behind the Hale-Bopp comet. More than 70 members of the Order of the Solar Temple committed suicide in Switzerland, France and North America. The Aum group even has a cousin in the neo-Nazi Japanese Sukyo Mahikari cult, which believes in an end-times blood bath and chastisement.
But there is no cult quite like Aum Shin Rikyo -- or "Supreme Truth."
What is the 'Supreme Truth'?
The cult's tenets are based on ancient yoga and primitive Buddhism. They also worship the Hindu god Shiva, who holds the keys to both destruction and creation. Destruction and creation, in the cult's view, are one in the same.
Aum Shin Rikyo is best known for its 1995 sarin nerve-gas attack on the Tokyo subway that killed 11 people and injured more than 5,000. The sarin was hidden in lunch boxes and drink containers that were displayed normally on the floor of the subway. At rush hour, the Aum cult members broke open the containers with sharp points they had affixed to the end of umbrellas they were carrying. The cultists then fled the trains, leaving behind the innocent to suffer. It was an excellent attack from a military precision point of view, but from a scientific and effectiveness standpoint, it was horribly executed. The dispersal method of the nerve gas was just a fraction of what it could have been had other means been used.
The victims of the attack suffered greatly. Symptoms included ocular pain, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, visual black outs, muscle weakness and projectile vomiting.
The sarin attack showed that Aum is no ordinary cult. It has raised its own army of computer programmers who have installed computer systems in almost 100 top Japanese corporations. No one knows what's been installed along with the assigned data. Bugs? Root-access privileges? Remote transmitters and monitors, perhaps?
The cult is diverse in its business interests. It sells health food and runs yoga studios. More importantly, the cult has stolen, through backdoors it set up at various outposts in Japan's military-industrial complex, secrets from the nation's top programs in the fields of lasers, nuclear warfare, counter-intelligence and space-flight operations. Aum's group is home to some of the most brilliant scientific minds in the world. It has raised over $1 billion in legitimate computer sales within the nation.
Moreover, its "M" division has done work for Japan's version of the Pentagon, the national phone system and many top corporations. The cult is divided into various "ministries," which in turn take their orders from the group's Science and Technology Agency. Medicine, physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, drugs and weapons are all disciplines the cult has compartmentalized with various experts. Cult members also manufactured amphetamines, truth serum and LSD. Anthrax and sarin nerve gas were also developed in the group's laboratories.
The leader of the group, Shoko Asahara, has learned to cruise Japan's top universities to find new recruits to head his ambitious chemical, computer and other scientific projects. Strangely, these brilliant scientists would drink Asahara's bath water and wear odd headgear to try to bring the group's thoughts into harmony and alignment.
The CIA, Pentagon and other Western intelligence agencies have had trouble curbing the free exchange of microbes executed by Aum scientists. Such exchanges occur every day in the modern war on disease. More than 1,500 microbe banks worldwide can be sought out for millions of pure and readily available microorganisms, more than a few of which are lethal, even in small quantities.
Aum Shin Rikyo should have caught the attention of U.S. military intelligence and the CIA long before the Tokyo subway attack. The cult mounted no less than nine attacks on American assets in Japan in recent years. One Aum cult member spoke of biological attacks carried out at U.S. military bases that went undetected. Cultists sprayed pestilential microbes and germ toxins off the tops of buildings and the backs of trucks. They admitted they had targeted the Imperial Palace, the Japanese legislature and the U.S. military station at Yokosuka, home to the Navy's 7th Fleet. The attacks failed only because Aum's henchmen released microbes that were not virulent enough to kill.
Who is Shoko Asahara?
Chizuo Matsumoto was a nobody in the early 1980s. It was then that he became famous in New Age circles for his mystical journey through the Himalayas. He even earned the blessing of the Dalai Lama. The cult leader launched his Buddhist-oriented sect in 1987. The following year he had more than 20,000 followers. Though he is legally blind and not terribly bright, he did eventually assemble a separatist movement based at the foot of Mount Fuji. In time, he and his group's dark activities would take center stage at the global G-7 (now G-8) summit.
Changing his name to Shoko Asahara, the Japanese cult leader taught that a great war was coming. According to terrorism expert Neil Livingstone, his plan was to manipulate America into attacking Japan, and then in the aftermath of Hiroshima-style destruction, he and his cult members would arise to rule over Japan. Asahara then began proclaiming to all who would listen that he was Jesus Christ. He even ran for parliament in 1990.
Asahara's connections are global. He dispatched cult members to Zaire to try to obtain the Ebola virus. They also carried out a biological attack in the Australian Outback in 1993.
The sweeping growth -- there are members in 20 nations -- and military-style organization of the group concern Western intelligence agents, which are leery that there is more to Aum Shin Rikyo than meets the eyes.
For example, the group has ties to Russia, traditionally an enemy of Japan. The truce signed at Theodore Roosevelt's "Summer White House" at Oyster Bay, Long Island, at the end of the Russo-Japanese War was but a blip on the screen of long-standing hostility between the two nations. Technically, they are still at war over the Kurill Islands, circa World War II. During the Cold War, the Russians likely would have enjoyed watching Japan's financial might minimized. China is also a historical enemy of Japan, as are both South and North Korea, due to Japan's war crimes record from the World War II occupation of those nations.
The Aum cult has a website in the Russian language and Asahara made a "salvation tour" to Russia during the 1990s. In late 1991, an Aum cultist had a meeting with Oleg Lobov, the chief at the Russian Security Council. The following year, Kiyohide Hayakawa, a top cult weapons expert roamed free in Russia, buying up weapons and advisers. The cult set up a front company that was staffed in part by Russian special forces, elite soldiers from the 9th, or "Deviata," Division.
Maj. Vasily Bure, who served with the 9th Division at the Simferopol military base in Ukraine, told WorldNetDaily that his fellow soldiers would have been outraged to learn that the Aum Shin Rikyo cult was getting assistance from the Russian military.
"We were directly controlled by the Russian president, and often we served as bodyguards for our nation's leaders. We were proud to serve our county in this manner," Bure told WorldNetDaily from his posh new office in Nicosia, Cyprus, where he runs an offshore banking company.
"Our troops were the best of the best, not glooba [Russian for 'stupid']. They were huge men, what we call 'medviet' or 'bears.' Everyone wanted to join up with us. Alpha force, commandos, counter-terrorist troops and even the Vympel Special Forces. The Vympel troops are organized only to wage guerilla war in foreign nations, to created massive tactical confusion, poison blood and water supplies, take down power grids and oil reserves and so forth."
Cults R Us
The existence of various Western religious groups that infiltrated Russia after the fall of the Berlin Wall greatly angered Russia's leaders in the early to mid-1990s. Gen. Alexander Lebed, who ran the first war in Chechnya, railed against evangelizing groups like the Mormons. Many members of the U.S. Congress, meanwhile, were greatly angered when President Boris Yeltsin considered a bill that would limit the activities of foreign missionaries and recognized the Russian Orthodox Church as sort of an official state church.
Aum Shin Rikyo, however, was not deterred. They launched their Russian language website and dispatched Asahara to the Motherland.
Dr. Alexander Dvorkin, Russia's point man on combating foreign cults and a consultant under the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, spoke out against the rise of foreign religious cults in Russia. He stood by the Duma's desire to pass legislation to emasculate the growth of the cults.
"As to criticism that this law brings us back to Brezhnev's or Chernyenko's times, I say: At that time, there were no Mormons or Scientologists at all here, period," Dvorkin explained. "This law will not evict them. It will somehow limit the activities of these sects, because the competition between the Orthodox Church and the sects is unfair -- the forces are uneven from the outset. The sects can buy TV time; plus they use dishonest forms of recruitment. The same Shoko Asahara unscrupulously told his Russian followers that Aum Shin Rikyo doctrine, in fact, coincided with the dogma of the Russian Orthodox Church."
Then-President Yeltsin expressed his desire "to protect the moral and spiritual health of the nation and raise reliable barriers to radical sects which inflict great damage on the physical and mental health of our citizens."
Yet despite the involvement of Yeltsin and other top Russian leaders in addressing the infiltration of cults into Russia, almost 50 of Asahara's men received military training from the elite Vympel special forces.
Said British MI-6 intelligence agent Bryan Hampton: "This, of course, shows that the Russians are still fomenting terrorism in foreign nations. Everything is for sale in Russia -- satellite photos, advisers, nuclear and biological weapons, bodyguards, gems, oil -- you name it."
Still at large
As for Aum Shin Rikyo, some members received a death sentence for the sarin attack -- the first ever handed down for such a crime in Japan. Others were sentenced to prison. The cult, however, still remains at large both in Japan and overseas. It remains to be seen how successful both Western intelligence agencies and Japan will be in mitigating the activities of those who follow the "Supreme Truth."
Britain's security services have discovered a plot by an unidentified "Middle East group" to perpetrate a terrorist attack on London's Underground rail network using the highly lethal sarin gas.
The attack was intended to duplicate a 1995 attack on a subway line in Tokyo by the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo cult which killed 12 people. British security authorities are linking the London plot with the discovery of a weapons cache in Germany in December, which was linked to Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden.
London has long been regarded as a safe haven for Islamic radicals, and it is thought to have provided the command and control center for groups which perpetrate atrocities abroad, said a senior police source.
TOKYO - The number of AUM Shinrikyo cult members totaled 1,019 on Feb. 1, a decrease of 32 since Nov. 1, according to a report submitted by AUM to the Public Security Investigation Agency on Thursday.
It is the fifth such report submitted to the agency by the cult, which now calls itself Aleph.
There are 10 AUM facilities nationwide, the same as in the previous survey conducted in November, according to the report.
AUM founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and many other cultists have been tried on a number of charges, including the March 1995 sarin attack on the Tokyo subway which killed 12 people and injured thousands.
BERLIN - Organizers of the 51st Berlin International Film Festival announced Tuesday a veteran Japanese director will receive a meritorious award for his latest film on the 1994 fatal nerve-gas attack by AUM Shinrikyo in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.
Kei Kumai, 70, will receive the Berlinale Camera award at a ceremony Thursday for ''Darkness in the Light,'' which focuses on media reports that falsely accused a man in the attack that killed seven people.
Company worker Yoshiyuki Kono, 50, who was the first to report the gas attack to police, was initially considered the prime suspect even though he was also sickened by the gas. His wife remains in a coma following the attack.
Kumai will be the second Japanese to receive the award following Kon Ichikawa, who won the prize last year for his work ''Dora Heita,'' (prodigal Heita) portraying a samurai who reforms a city ruled by gangs and corrupt bureaucrats.
Kumai has participated in the film festival seven times. The organizers said the award conveys their homage to the Japanese director's long career.
The award, established in 1986, is given to people in the film industry involved in a film not entered in the festival's competition.
A man believed to be a member of a rightist group was arrested after firing shots Thursday night at an apartment building in Tokyo where followers of Aum Shinrikyo live, police said Friday.
Takayuki Inoue, 27, of Chofu, western Tokyo, was holding a handgun when he was detained by a police officer shortly before midnight near the apartment building in Setagaya Ward, police said.
Four shots were fired at the door of the owner of the building, who lives on the first floor, they said. Nobody was injured in the incident.
Police suspect Inoue is linked to a rightwing group that waged a noise campaign in the neighborhood using loudspeaker trucks after Aum followers moved into the building in December.
Police had searched the rightist group's office in the same ward Thursday morning in connection with the arrest of one of its members who in late December drove a loudspeaker truck at a police officer patrolling near the apartment.
Police have kept the area under watch after a number of cultists got a lease from the owner of the building. and moved into apartments on the first and second floors.
Aum members were convicted or are standing trial for the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 in which 12 people were killed and thousands injured, as well as for a number of other heinous crimes. Aum founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is among those being tried for murder and other charges. The cult has pledged to abide by the law, but it is still regarded with suspicion and many communities have resisted moves by Aum members to live in their areas.
The Setagaya Ward office has rejected the application for domicile registration filed by the Aum followers living in the apartment building.
TOKYO - Prosecutors on Thursday asked the Tokyo High Court to sentence a former AUM Shinrikyo follower to life in prison for his involvement in a nerve-gas attack that killed seven people in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, in 1994.
At the first appeal hearing, prosecutors said a lower court ruling on the case overlooked Takashi Tomita, 42, who they claim played a crucial role in executing indiscriminate mass murder.
Tomita's sentence -- 17 years in jail -- was ''too lenient'' in comparison to the punishment meted out to other AUM followers in previous rulings, they said.
Lawyers representing Tomita claimed he was not guilty, saying he ''was not aware that gas was poisonous.''
Tomita was sentenced by the Tokyo District Court in June 1998 to 17 years in prison for murder and attempted murder in connection with the Matsumoto gas attack, which took place on June 27, 1994.
Tomita was believed to have guarded the AUM member who spread the gas during the attack.
Both prosecutors and Tomita appealed the 1998 ruling.
AUM founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, and numerous followers have been tried on a number of counts, including charges in connection with the March 1995 sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway system, which killed 12 people and injured thousands. The group now calls itself Aleph.
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