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Kidnapped Japanese journalist freed after 3 years

By
Wooyoung Lee
Freelance journalist Junpei Yasuda. Photo by Everett Kennedy Brown/EPA
Freelance journalist Junpei Yasuda. Photo by Everett Kennedy Brown/EPA

SEOUL, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- A Japanese journalist held hostage by a militant group in Syria for three years is believed to have been freed, according to the Japanese government.

Qatari officials told the Japanese government that the man, believed to be Japanese journalist Junpei Yasuda, was released from Syria and was in Turkey, Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said in a briefing on Tuesday night, Japanese media reported.

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"As we gather available information, it's highly likely that the man is Yasuda himself," said Suga to reporters, according to Yomiuri Shimbun.

Yasuda went missing in June 2015 while covering a civil war in Syria.

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He was reportedly being held by an al Qaida-affiliated group, known as al-Nusra, which threatened to hand him over to the Islamic State if the Japanese government doesn't come forward to negotiate for his release.

Four videos have been released since the kidnapping, featuring a man likely to be Yasuda.

A recent video was released in July, featuring a bearded man in an orange outfit, which resembles the clothes worn by hostages by the Islamic State. Two guards in black outfit were holding guns and standing behind him.

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He said: "Today is July 25, 2018. I'm in a very bad condition. Please help me immediately."

In another image released in May, Yasuda was holding a sign, reading "Please Help. This is the last chance" in Japanese.

A high-ranking Japanese official said details of Yusada's condition have not been known, but he is safe and added that the Japanese government didn't trade him for money, Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

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The report also said that Yasuda's parents prayed for their son's return by folding more than 10,000 origami cranes.

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