Seven members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult which carried out a deadly chemical attack on the Tokyo underground in 1995 have been executed, including cult leader Shoko Asahara.
Asahara, who founded Aum in 1987, said that the United States would attack Japan and turn it into a nuclear wasteland, He also said he had traveled forward in time to 2006 and talked to people then about what World War III had been like.
The cult's leader and the mastermind behind the attacks was Shoko Asahara, who was wanted for previous attacks on the Japanese public.
Japanese broadcaster NHK, citing unnamed sources, reported that Asahara and at least 6 of his followers were executed by hanging on early Friday morning. "So, I have some regret", she said.
"The fear, pain and sorrow of the victims, survivors and their families - because of the heinous cult crimes - must have been so severe, and that is beyond my imagination", Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa told a news conference.
He pleaded not guilty and never testified, but muttered and made incoherent remarks in court during the eight years of his trial. A further six cult followers remain on death row.
Minoru Kariya, whose father was tortured to death by cult members in 1995 as he tried to get his brother to leave the cult, didn't see the point of keeping Asahara alive and wondering when his execution might be.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said only that the Justice Ministry would make an announcement later Friday.
"Today's executions are unprecedented in recent memory for Japan". They were hanged in detention centers in Tokyo and three other places, spread out so the executions could be done at once.
The hangings on Friday are the largest simultaneous execution in Japan since 1911, when 11 people were hanged for plotting to assassinate the emperor. They mixed Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, and also incorporated parts of apocalyptic Christian thinking. There are 117 convicts on death row.
The attack shocked the world, and prompted a massive crackdown that saw Asahara and some of his followers arrested. They included three scientists who led the production of the sarin gas and a man who drove a getaway vehicle.
Aum Shinrikyo was behind the 1995 sarin gas attack inside a Tokyo subway station that killed 13 people and injured hundreds. His wife died after being in a coma for more than a decade.
Police were first alerted just after 08:00 and panic soon set in, with subway workers screaming at people to evacuate and passengers convulsing on carriage floors.
Asahara founded Aum Shinrikyo in 1984 and quickly attracted thousands of disciples, combining forecasts of a coming apocalypse - which would come after the U.S. attacked Japan and turned it into a nuclear wasteland - with traditional religious teachings and new age tactics.
Born Chizuo Matsumoto in 1955 on the southwestern island of Kyushu, he changed his name in the 1980s, when the Aum cult was being developed.
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