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Crime and punishment

Cult leader, 6 followers executed 23 years after sarin attack in Tokyo subway

Shoko Asahara, the founder of the doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo, and six of his followers were executed on Friday, the Japanese government announced.

Six other cult members remain on death row. Aum Shinrikyo was behind the 1995 sarin gas attack inside a Tokyo subway station that killed 13 people and injured hundreds. Contaminated plastic bags were left on five different subway lines, making more than 1,000 others sick, and at least 4,000 people went to the hospital due to anxiety and trauma, NBC News reports.

In 2004, Asahara, 63, was convicted of multiple counts of murder in connection with the sarin attack, as well as the 1989 assassinations of a lawyer who wanted to sue him, the man's wife, and their child. He founded the cult in 1984, and declared himself Christ in 1992. He taught his thousands of followers — at one point, it's believed there were 10,000 in Japan and 30,000 in Russia — that World War III was on its way, and only people who followed him would survive.

The Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey has studied the cult, and determined that the group tested sarin, XV, and other nerve agents from 1990 to 2000, causing at least 40 other deaths and thousands of injuries. There are several splinter groups of the cult still in existence, and the Japanese government considers them "dangerous religions," NBC News reports.