As with its goals as a whole, the general purpose of the attacks levied against the Japanese public by Aum Shinrikyo is not entirely clear. As is often the case with cult-based acts of terror, there is a heavily mix of religious fervor, political rhetoric and self-indulgence. Indeed, all of these may play into the hazy motives of Aum Shinrikyo. Indeed, the Global Terrorism Database identifies the moment at which the organization transitioned into militancy as being in response to a lost parliamentary election. When the cult's selected representatives failed to gain a single parliamentary seat, Asahara contended that the Japanese government had conspired to keep his party out of the decision-making body of their nation. This would be grounds for future armed resistance. Consistent with this act of self-interest, future attacks would directly target those who seemed to represent a political or legal threat to Asahara himself. (GTD, 1)
The Japanese Red Army would instead be more directly geared toward distinct political objectives relating to its socialist orientation. With respect to the attacks which it would undertake, its tendency to target civilians in commercial airliners would underscore a strategy of hostage-taking and subsequent diplomatic negotiation. For instance, "in 1975, the JRA embarked on a successful campaign to free all of its imprisoned members by taking hostages and using them as bargaining chips." (GTD, 1)
The MCC's methods of 'attack' have more generally taken the form of armed resistance to larger opposing forces such as the government's military. With respect to its identify as a terrorist organization, its legal procedures may be considered a method of attack on human rights. In the regions where the MCC had established a sphere of control, its imposition of harsh communist legal courts contributes to what the Global Terrorism Database reports is at least 100 executions annually.
Area of Operation:
Though Aum is an organization based in Japan and founded with Japanese interests in mind, it is an international terrorist organization, so regarded for its bases of operation in other parts of the world. Accordingly, "Aum Shinrikyo actively recruited among professionals and students from Japan's top universities. The cult also enlisted over 300 scientists with degrees in biochemistry, medicine, genetic engineering and biology. At its peak, Aum had 10,000 members in Japan, with 35,000 in Russia. Aum also had offices in the U.S., Germany and Taiwan." (GTD, 1) Selecting nations with significant Japanese populations or with direct regional interest in imperial Japanese affairs, Aum would spread its operation to these locations as a property of its cult's teachings. But more essentially, this would become an effective operational measure against being dismantled fully by a single domestic government such as has been attempted by the Japanese.
The Japanese Red Army also has attempted to spread its operation, but primarily by choosing international targets. Its particular sense of hostility toward imperial alignment and capitalist global unions such as the United Nations would underscore the tendency of the JRA to attempt to make its voice heard in places like the Hague and in Israel. To this latter point and underscoring the degree of interest which it has taken in the affairs of this part of the world, the JRA also was known at the time of its peak of operations to retain headquarters both in Japan and in Lebanon, as reported by the Global Terrorism Database.
As stated above, MCC is an essentially domestic organization. At that, it has tended also to limit its operations to those contexts where it can effectively dominate in regional affairs. Thus, its "current goal is to establish a "Compact Revolutionary Zone," an area of control that would extend from the Nepalese border to Andhra Pradesh in the south." (GTD, 1) This ambition is what primarily registers this as a threat to the interests and security of India.
Targets and Methods:
An international terrorist organization, its primary interest has nonetheless been on undermining the Japanese government. Therefore, it has targeted specifically Japanese sites throughout its short history, demonstrating a willingness to inflict harm upon both the Japanese public and specific individuals standing in the way of its success. To this latter point, the 1994 attack would be directed against three judges who sat on a trial in which Asahara was the defendant. Likewise, the 1995 attack would be aimed at police officers who had allegedly obstructed Aum's activities. In both cases, the use of sarin nerve gas in a public space would reveal the horrifying reality of Aum's capabilities. Indeed, "after the attack, Japanese police discovered that Aum Shinrikyo had accumulated hundreds of tons of chemicals in order to make enough sarin gas to kill millions of people. The production was conducted at the Satyan 7 facility in the Kamikuishiki complex, outside of Tokyo, near Mt. Fuji." (GTD, 1)
The chemical attacks perpetrated by Aum Shinrikyo would be a new method of inflicting terror. But in the 1970s, the methods employed by the JRA were among the most terrifying to the Japanese public. Hijackings and hostage-scenarios constituted a real and sustained campaign of terror, with civilian air travels and international diplomats both functioning as major targets.
The methods employed by the Maoist Communist Center have been the occupation of villages in the regions where power-vacuum has allowed for such assumptions. With respect to its methods of terror, the punishments handed out by its court include both brutal execution methods and amputations.
Sources of Funding:
Its status as a cult is one of the unique characteristics that had helped to propel Aum. Its membership was the primary source of its capabilities, which significantly eclipse those of any Japanese terror group prior or since. Indeed, in the aftermath of the attack and the discovery of Aum's broad capacity for terrorism, "Japanese police concluded the group owned over $1 billion in assets, the majority of which was obtained through membership fees, the sale of its literature, donations, tests, advanced courses and numerous businesses the organization ran." (GTD, 1) Its use of these materials is particularly characteristic of cult proliferation, and accounts for the organizations success both in terms of its fast membership growth and its resultant financial largesse.
Though it is somewhat vague in detail on the subject, the Global Terrorism Database reports that, by contrast, the Japanese Red Army draws most of its funding from ban robberies. This denotes a willingness to engage in civilian criminal activities in support of terror ambitions.
The MCC is a significant contrast in that it uses its presentation of itself as a force of civil governance in order to collect taxes from the villages where it has achieved occupation. These funds contribute to the undertaking of armed confrontations with Indian military forces whenever territorial disputes are mounted.
Though in many ways, Aum's activities have been limited, especially when compared to such historical threats as the East Asia Anti-Imperial Japanese Armed Front which festered throughout the early 1970s, its most notorious attack accounts for its reputation. (DHS, 1) According to the Global Terrorism Database, "in March 1995, Aum assaulted Tokyo's subway, in an attempt to stop a police investigation into Aum's activities. The cultists released sarin nerve gas, killing twelve people and injuring over 5,000 others." (GTD, 1) This attack would not just inject a panic into the Japanese public over the capabilities and will of such anti-government groups, but it would also reveal to the world the considerable danger reflected in the possibilities of chemical attack.
Aum's domestic attacks would contrast the tendency of such groups as the JRA to approach international targets with relation to its own political platform. Its objection to the Palestinian situation would drive its most notorious attack, "a 1972 assault on Tel Aviv's airport, in which three JRA members killed 24 people and wounded 80." (GTD, 1)
The Global Terrorism Database does not report to any major attacks taken on the behalf of the Maoist Communist Center.
As earlier noted, that would be the last of Aum's attacks. And indeed, under a new leadership and the new name, Aleph, "it has apologized for its past acts of terrorism and paid reparation to the victims of the Tokyo underground sarin attack." (GTD, 1) However, reports have indicated that many hardline followers of Asahara have begun to intensify their efforts at returning to acts of anti-government violence. The distribution of literature and other cult-driven material continues and has even showed renewed vigor during these last few years of conflict.
Like Aum, the JRA would see its chief members gathered up and imprisoned, including Shigenobu. Today, Shigenobu has taken a decisive position against violence and JRA has abstained from any such activities for more than two decades.
The MCC, contrary to the two organizations described here above, does actually continue to engage in activities designed to unify a region for the assertion of independence, though it does so under the guise of an organizational merger to be discussed hereafter.