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Cult Anthrax: Stored slime reveals why release went undetected

A sample of mysterious ooze has shed new light on the use of biological weapons in 1993 by the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo.

The cult achieved worldwide notoriety in March 1995 for releasing sarin, a deadly nerve gas, in the Tokyo subway system. It killed 12 people and sickened some 5,000 more. Evidence now shows that 2 years before that, the cult released anthrax in Tokyo, says Paul Keim of the Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. At the time, however, nobody noticed anything more serious than an annoying smell.

This week in Denver at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Keim and his colleagues expanded on the drama behind their previously published technical account of how the anthrax release proved to be a life-sparing dud.

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