'Highly likely' Japanese journalist has been released from captivity in Syria

26 October, 2018, 03:49 | Author: Carlos George
  • Jumpei Yasuda was last heard from in Syria in 2015

A Japanese journalist kidnapped in Syria more than three years ago is believed to have been released, the government said Tuesday. "We want official confirmation that the man is indeed Jumpei Yasuda as soon as possible ".

Foreign Minister Taro Kono announces that the government has confirmed a man under protective custody by Turkish authorities is Jumpei Yasuda, at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo on October 24, 2018. "His health condition initially seems OK".

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a hastily arranged news conference on Tuesday night that the Qatari authorities had informed Japan that Yasuda could be released by the end of the day.

The man who uploaded the footage said Yasuda is being held captive by the Nusra Front, an al-Qaida-linked anti-government militant group in Syria. Kono said Yasuda appeared to be in good health.

"Given various information, we believe that that the person is highly likely to be Mr Yasuda", Mr Suga said, adding that the journalist's wife had already been notified.

The Japanese government was criticised for what detractors saw as its flat-footed response to the crisis at the time, including apparently missed opportunities to free both men.

The Gulf emirate has denied paying ransoms, but has been accused of handing over hundreds of millions of dollars to secure the release of 26 Qataris, including several royal family members, abducted in Iraq by a pro-Iranian militia. "We heard of his release through media outlets", it said.

Jumpei Yasuda, of Japan, talked in Antakya, Turkey, Wednesday.

He attributed Yasuda's release to an effort by the Japanese government to seek cooperation from Turkey and Qatar via a special anti-terrorism intelligence unit Tokyo established in December 2015.

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Yasuda, wearing a black T-shirt, was escorted from his plane at Tokyo's airport by Japanese officials and ushered into a black van. A video released a month later showed him blindfolded and held by armed men, saying "Oh, Jesus".

Yasuda started reporting on the Middle East in early 2000s. In his last tweet two days earlier, Yasuda said his reporting was often obstructed and that he would stop tweeting his whereabouts and activities.

Syria has been one of the most risky places for journalists since the conflict there began in March 2011, with dozens killed or kidnapped.

Early July 2018 - Footage of a man believed to be Yasuda, who said in English he wanted to see his family, is uploaded to Facebook.

Yasuda gave thanks for his freedom in a video released by Turkish officials.

In 2015, he entered Syria, hoping to report on the fate of a colleague, Kenji Goto.

Another is British photojournalist John Cantlie, who appeared in Daesh propaganda videos. Cantlie has worked for several publications, including The Sunday Times, The Sun and The Sunday Telegraph. Daesh beheaded Foley in August 2014.

He was kidnapped in 2015 by al-Qaida's branch in Syria.

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