By Kaya Geha
Jumpei Yasuda, a freelance journalist, was released from his captors on Tuesday, October 23 after being held hostage in Syria for the last three years, the Japanese government says.
Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, told reporters that Qatari officials notified the government that a man likely to be Jumpei Yasuda was released and is now in a Turkish immigration facility in Antakya.
Yasuda was cleared across the Turkish border. It was unclear whether the Turkish government had played a role in settling an end to his captivity and the circumstances surrounding Yasuda’s release remain concealed.
Yasuda went missing in June 2015 following his flight from Turkey to Syria to report on the country’s civil war. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, reportedly held him there. Soon after, the Japan Times announced that the group had demanded a 10 million ransom from the government for Mr. Yasuda’s release, which the government would not pay.
In July 2018, Japanese television stations aired a video in which Mr. Yasuda spoke to the camera. “I hope all of my family is fine,” he said. “I want to see you.” This was followed by a photograph two months later that showed him holding a handwritten note that reads in Japanese: “Please help. This is the last chance.”
Turkish authorities are now protecting him while his identity is being confirmed. In an earlier video released by Turkish officials, Yasuda thanked those responsible for his freedom and announced that he was safe.
The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe had earlier voiced his relief while still waiting for confirmation of the identity of the freedman. Both Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Kono thanked the Qatari and Turkish governments for their assistance in freeing the man, though their specific roles remain unknown.