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A. Dolnik, '13 years since Tokyo: re-visiting the 'superterrorism' debate' (2008) 2 (2) Perspectives on Terrorism 3-11.


On 20 March 1995, members of the Aum Shirikyo cult used sharpened umbrella tips to pierce plastic bags filled with sarin nerve agent onboard five trains converging at Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki station. Twelve people died and 1,039 were injured in what remains the largest nonconventional terrorist attack in history. Then, only a month later, an explosives laden truck detonated in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring over 800 others in what at the time was the most lethal terrorist attack on United States soil. These two events, while unrelated, served as the catalyst for the overwhelming perception that it is no longer a question of “if” a mass casualty terrorist attack using chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) weapons will occur, but rather the question of “when” it will happen. In 2008, 13 years since these two tragic events, we are still waiting for these gory predictions of CBRN “superterrorism” to materialize. This article will revisit some of the core questions in the “superterrorism” debate, particularly in relation to recent trends, such as the apparent decentralization and de-territorialisation of the phenomenon.

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Perspectives on Terrorism

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