TOKYO -- Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference in Tokyo that according to information from Qatar, Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda was released on Oct. 23 after going missing in Syria in 2015. He is now at an immigration facility in Antakya in southeastern Turkey near the Syrian border, Suga added.
The Japanese government is trying to verify the identity of the individual with the help of the Turkish government, but it is highly likely that the released man is Yasuda, and the government conveyed this information to Yasuda’s wife, Suga said.
Yasuda was believed to be held by an extremist group in Syria after he entered the Middle Eastern country to report on the civil war there.
According to a Syrian man who posted a photo online of a man thought to be Yasuda in March 2016, the journalist was abducted by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, a militant group affiliated with al-Qaeda previously known as the "Al-Nusra Front," for ransom in June 2015 shortly after he entered Idlib province in northwestern Syria from Hatay province in southern Turkey.
The man told the Mainichi Shimbun earlier this year that his talks to free Yasuda two years ago failed and he had since backed away from the situation.
The man claimed that he failed to secure Yasuda’s release because the Japanese government refused to comply with the militant organization's demands. It is unclear whether his claims are true.