Family and friends on Wednesday waited anxiously for the return of Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda, who went missing in Syria in 2015, after the government said the previous night a man believed to be him has been released.
«I want to see him alive soon by any means,» Yasuda’s father Hideaki, 78, told reporters at his home in Iruma, Saitama Prefecture, near Tokyo.
The 44-year-old journalist was apparently taken hostage by an al-Qaida-linked group after entering Syria to cover the civil war. The Japanese government is now trying to verify if the freed man is indeed Yasuda after being informed by Qatar about the release on Tuesday.
Hideaki and his wife Sachiko, 75, learned about the possible release of their son at about 11 p.m. Tuesday after being told by Yasuda’s wife to watch the television news.
Wiping tears away with a handkerchief, Sachiko said, «I could not do anything but pray for him every day.» She said she folded more than 10,000 paper cranes during their son’s ordeal, a traditional way of making wishes in Japan.
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(Still image from online video in July 2018)
Yasuda’s friends from nonprofit organizations supporting refugees in Syria were also keen to see him return home quickly.
Maki Sato, secretary general of the Japan Iraq Medical Network said, «What he witnessed during his captivity is precious information. We want to hear from him to utilize his experience in helping to end the war.»
Fusako Yanase, chair of the Association for Aid and Relief, Japan, said Yasuda’s situation reminded the group of the need to be mindful of security near the Syrian border where its members are operating.
The government is trying to verify the identity of the man now staying at an immigration facility in Antakya in Turkey.
All — Kyodo News+