Jumpei Yasuda

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Japanese freelance reporter Yasuda went missing in June 2015, after saying he planned to enter Syria from Turkey, according to a CNN report that cited an unnamed friend of Yasuda’s.

On June 20, 2015, shortly before he went missing, the freelance Japanese reporter posted on Twitter that reporting in northern Syria was becoming increasingly dangerous.

Kosuke Tsuneoka, another Japanese freelance reporter, told The Associated Press in July 2015 that he had not heard from Yasuda since June 23, 2015, which he said was unusual. “It is not normal that there has been no contact from him at all,” Tsuneoka said.

Yasuda was described in reports as an experienced journalist who had previously reported from Afghanistan and Iraq.

CPJ’s efforts to reach Yasuda’s family in Japan in July 2015 were unsuccessful.

Yasuda appeared in a video on March 16, 2016, which was posted to the Facebook account of a Syrian named Tarik Abdul Hak. Yasuda, who speaks in English in the video, said that no one in Japan cares about his captivity, and that he loved his family. Abdul Hak–who identified himself as a fixer and activist from the town of Jisr al-Shughur–told The Japan Times he received the footage from an intermediary with the group known at the time as the Al-Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria.

On July 6, 2018, Japanese privately owned broadcaster Nippon News Network aired a video showing Yasuda against a black backdrop, according to news reports. In the video, Yasuda says in English that he is fine, and expresses his desire to see his family soon. He also urges them not to give up and not to forget him. The Nippon News Network reporter said during the broadcast of the video that Yasuda said the date was October 17, 2017.

News reports said that the Nippon News Network obtained the video from a person connected to the militant group Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, an Al Qaeda offshoot formerly known as Al-Nusra Front, which is allegedly holding Yasuda hostage.  

Yasuda was freed from captivity October 23, 2018, after his captors handed him over at the Turkish-Syrian border, according to Reuters and The Guardian. Yasuda was flown from Istanbul to Tokyo on October 25, according to The Guardian. In a Reuters report, Yasuda said he was forbidden from moving or making noise during his captivity, and was often not fed or given canned food without a can opener.

The Japanese government thanked Qatar and Turkey for their help freeing Yasuda, and denied paying a ransom for his release, Reuters reported.