Japanese journalist «happy» after 3-year hostage ordeal in Syria

Japanese freelance journalist Jumpei Yasuda has expressed happiness about returning to his country after more than three years of captivity in Syria, Reuters news agency reported from Turkey.

«I am happy that I can return to Japan. At the same time, I don’t know what will happen from here or what I should do,» he was quoted as saying. «I am thinking about what I need to do.»

Yasuda, 44, made the comments to Reuters Wednesday night local time on board a flight from the southern Turkish city of Antakya to Istanbul, from where he is expected to fly back to Japan on Thursday.

(Supplied photo)

Japan confirmed Wednesday Yasuda had been released after more than three years of captivity in Syria and is now in Turkey, and will be coming home as soon as possible.

Yasuda entered Syria from Hatay in June 2015 to cover the civil war and then disappeared, apparently after being taken hostage by a militant group.

In a video clip released by the Hatay provincial government, where the immigration facility is located, Yasuda, with relatively short hair and a long beard, said in English that after being in Syria for 40 months «I am…in Turkey. Now, I’m in a safe condition. Thank you very much.»

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Although it was not immediately known how or why Yasuda, who often provided coverage on war zones, was freed, Suga indicated Qatar, which has some influence over Syrian rebel groups, and Turkey, Syria’s northern neighbor, brokered negotiations.

The Japanese government had called for cooperation from Qatar and Turkey through the International Counter-Terrorism Intelligence Collection Unit, launched in 2015, to gather information on global militant groups.

After he went missing, footage apparently of Yasuda reading out a message in English to his family and the Japanese public was posted online in March 2016.

In May 2016, an image surfaced of what appeared to be a bearded Yasuda holding a sign bearing a handwritten message in Japanese saying, «Please help. This is the last chance. Yasuda Jumpei.»

Multiple video recordings showing a person believed to be Yasuda were also posted online in July this year.

While Yasuda was believed to be in the hands of an al-Qaida-linked group, some information suggested he had been handed over to a splinter organization.

(Still image from online video in July 2018)

All — Kyodo News+

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