An image of a freelance Japanese journalist who went missing in Syria has been posted online. The image was sent to multiple media outlets by a Syrian anti-government activist who claims to be a mediator for a group that captured the 42-year-old.
That person asserts that Yasuda is being held by the Nusra Front, an Al-Qaida-linked antigovernment militant group in Syria, the source said, adding that the photo is said to have been taken by the group on Saturday.
The man in the image is wearing an orange shirt, sports a long beard and hair and is holding a sheet of paper on which is written in Japanese “Please help me. This is the last chance. Jumpei Yasuda”.
Yasuda hails from Saitama prefecture, near Tokyo. He became a freelance journalist after working as a newspaper reporter. He has been covering conflict areas, including Syria and Iraq.
Yasuda went missing after entering Syria from southern Turkey accompanied by a guide in June 2015. Informed sources said Yasuda is being detained by the Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front group.
A video was posted on Facebook in March, indicating he could be a hostage of militants in Syria. A Syrian man who uploaded the video said the video was received from a person representing the Nusra Front.
The man also said the group had repeatedly contacted the Japanese government to seek a ransom in exchange for Yasuda’s release, and that the video was released after Tokyo demanded proof he was alive and being detained by the group.
The Nusra Front reportedly released three Spanish journalists earlier this month.
On Monday, a senior Foreign Ministry official told reporters that Tokyo is gathering information, assuming that the man in the image is Yasuda.