Japan journalist freed from Syria

Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda has been freed after being held in Syria for three years.A Japanese journalist freed after more than three years of captivity in Syria says he’s safe in neighbouring Turkey.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono says embassy officials met with the freelance journalist, Jumpei Yasuda, at an immigration centre in southern Turkey near the border with Syria.

“We are extremely pleased that we have confirmed the safety of Mr. Jumpei Yasuda,” Kono told reporters.

Yasuda was kidnapped in 2015 by al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, known at the time as the al-Nusra Front, after contact with him was lost in June that year. A war monitoring group said he was most recently held by a Syrian commander with the Turkistan Islamic Party, which mostly consists of Chinese jihadis in Syria.

“My name is Jumpei Yasuda, Japanese journalist. I have been held in Syria for 40 months,” Yasuda said, somewhat haltingly, in English in comments broadcast by Japan’s NHK public television.

“Now I am in Turkey. Now I am in safe condition. Thank you very much.”

NHK said the video was shot inside the immigration centre and was released by the local government in Turkey’s Hatay province.

News of Yasuda’s release came late Tuesday from Qatar, which helped in obtaining his freedom along with Turkey and other countries in the region, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

Asked if any ransom was involved, Suga said: “There is no fact that ransom money was paid.”

Yasuda’s wife, a singer who goes by the name Myu, was on a live talk show on Japanese television and shed tears when she heard Kono confirm that her husband was safe.

“First I want to tell him welcome back, and then praise him for enduring,” she said.

“I’m so glad he survived.”

Yasuda’s parents earlier said they couldn’t wait to see their son return home.

“I was just praying for his safe return,” his mother Sachiko Yasuda, 75, told Japan’s NHK public television as she and her husband stood in front of their home outside Tokyo, holding a “thousand cranes” well-wishing origami ornament that she had added to every day for three years.