Jumpei Yasuda Yamamoto, a Japanese journalist who was kidnapped three years ago in Syria, has been freed. In a phone call Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe thanked President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for Ankara's efforts to secure Yasuda's release.
Yasuda, a 44-year-old freelance journalist, is now in safe condition in Turkey, the Governor Erdal Ata of the southern Turkish province of Hatay said Wednesday.
Ata said Yasuda had no ID or other documents to prove his identity when he was brought to Turkey by Turkish intelligence and security services. He said he was a journalist who had entered Syria illegally in 2015 from Turkey.
Yasuda stayed at a resettlement center for illegal migrants in Hatay for two days and left the facility on late Wednesday. Accompanied by Japanese embassy officials, Yasuda is expected to go to Istanbul and fly back home to Japan.
The governor told reporters that this was not "a military operation" to rescue Yasuda but he was "located thanks to work by Turkish police and intelligence."
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono also told reporters that the freed man was confirmed as Jumpei Yasuda, who is currently in Antakya.
"We are extremely pleased that we have confirmed the safety of Mr. Jumpei Yasuda," Kono said, adding that Japanese Embassy officials met with Yasuda at an immigration center in southern Turkey near the border with Syria, where he has been protected since he was freed Tuesday.
Yasuda's health condition "seems to be good," he said. "I would like to have him return home as early as possible," the minister added.
Yasuda was kidnapped by a branch of al-Qaida in Syria, known at the time as the Nusra Front, after contact with him was lost in June that year. A war monitoring group said he was most recently held by a group which comprises mostly of Chinese foreign fighters.
The news of Yasuda's release came late Tuesday from Qatar, which helped in efforts for his release along with Turkey and other countries in the region, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, thanking them for their support. Asked if any ransom was paid, Suga said, "There is no evidence that ransom money was paid."
The Japan Times previously reported that the Al-Qaeda affiliates had demanded a $10 million ransom for the journalist after the video was released, which the government refused to pay.
In the video, Yasuda identified himself as Korean and gave a different name, but spoke in Japanese. He gave the recording date as July 25, saying he was in a bad situation and asking for help. His wife said she had no idea why Yasuda had identified himself as Korean in the video, but confirmed it showed him and that he is Japanese.
Yasuda started reporting on the Middle East in the early 2000s. He was taken hostage in Iraq in 2004 with three other Japanese nationals, but was freed after Islamic clerics negotiated his release. His last job in Syria involved reporting on his friend Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist who was taken hostage and killed by the terrorist group Daesh. Contact was lost with Yasuda after he sent a message to another Japanese freelancer on June 23, 2015. In his last tweet two days earlier, Yasuda said his reporting was often obstructed and that he would stop tweeting his location and activities. Several videos showing a man believed to be Yasuda have been released in the past year. In one video released in July, a bearded man thought to be Yasuda said he was in a harsh environment and needed to be rescued immediately.
Syria has been one of the most dangerous places for journalists since the conflict there began in March 2011, with dozens killed or kidnapped. Several journalists are still missing in Syria and their fates are unknown.
Those missing include Austin Tice of Houston, Texas, who disappeared in August 2012 while covering the conflict, which has killed some 400,000 people. A video released a month later showed him blindfolded and held by armed men, saying "Oh, Jesus." He has not been heard from since. Tice is a former Marine who has reported for The Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers, CBS and other outlets, and disappeared shortly after his 31st birthday.
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. He was kidnapped with American journalist James Foley in November 2012. Daesh beheaded Foley in August 2014.
Lebanese journalist Samir Kassab, who worked for Sky News, was kidnapped on Oct. 14, 2013, along with a colleague from Mauritania, Ishak Moctar, and a Syrian driver while on a trip in northern Syria. In March 2014, two Spanish journalists – correspondent Javier Espinosa and photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova – were released six months after being kidnapped by an al-Qaida-linked group.
Please click to read our informative text prepared pursuant to the Law on the Protection of Personal Data No. 6698 and to get information about the cookies used on our website in accordance with the relevant legislation.
6698 sayılı Kişisel Verilerin Korunması Kanunu uyarınca hazırlanmış aydınlatma metnimizi okumak ve sitemizde ilgili mevzuata uygun olarak kullanılan çerezlerle ilgili bilgi almak için lütfen tıklayınız.