Japanese Journalist, Missing in Syria Since 2015, Appears in New Video

HONG KONG — A Japanese journalist who went missing in Syria three years ago and who is believed to be a hostage of terrorists appeared in a new video aired on Japanese television on Friday.

Jumpei Yasuda, a freelance reporter who often covered war zones, disappeared after traveling to Syria from Turkey in 2015, intending to cover the Syrian civil war. He was believed to have been taken hostage by the Nusra Front, which now calls itself Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, a group known to capture foreigners for ransom.

Nippon News Network, which obtained and broadcast the new video, declined to disclose its source but confirmed that it had been provided by a person connected to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, who told the network that it had been recorded by the group that captured Mr. Yasuda. Two other Japanese outlets, JNN News and ANN News, also broadcast footage.

In the Nippon News Network video, Mr. Yasuda noted that it was October 2017, a reporter for the network said in the broadcast, so it is not clear whether it reflected Mr. Yasuda’s current condition. Nippon News Network declined to broadcast or release the entire video.

His hair grayer and his beard longer since his last video appearance, Mr. Yasuda spoke to the camera against a black backdrop. Edited jerkily, the clip appeared to be stitched together from multiple takes and did not show Mr. Yasuda speaking continuously.

“I hope all of my family is fine,” Mr. Yasuda said in the video. “I want to see you.”

A few seconds later, a network voice-over in Japanese began summarizing the video’s contents, while continuing to show Mr. Yasuda speak.

The segment that ANN News broadcast showed him saying: “Don’t forget. Don’t give up.”

Mr. Yasuda’s wife, Myu Yasuda, told JNN News that she hoped he would make it home soon.

“His face looked a bit pale and he seems to have lost some weight,” she said. “I am just hoping that he will soon return to Japan safely, safely, safely.”

The State Department designated the Nusra Front a terrorist group in 2012 and renewed that designation this year to reflect the name Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. The group declared its affiliation with Al Qaeda in 2013, but claims to have cut those ties.

Mr. Yasuda was last seen in a video in 2016, in which he addressed his family while sitting behind a table in a room with white walls.

It was posted on social media by Tarik Abdul Hak, a Syrian who has said that he is in contact with the people holding Mr. Yasuda captive. Two months later, Japanese news organizations published a photograph showing Mr. Yasuda holding a handwritten note in Japanese that reads: “Please help. This is the last chance.”

Mr. Abdul Hak reportedly provided the photo as well.

On Friday, Mr. Abdul Hak posted a screenshot of the latest video of Mr. Yasuda on his Facebook and Twitter accounts. He claimed to mediate on behalf of the group holding Mr. Yasuda captive, though he told the newspaper The Japan Times in late June that he had stopped negotiating the terms for Mr. Yasuda’s release because the Japanese government had not responded to the demands of the hostage takers.

Mr. Abdul Hak was not immediately available for comment.

With the new video, Mr. Yasuda’s captors could be signaling that they want to renew hostage bargaining.

In the past, the Japanese government has refused to pay ransom for hostages, and after the first video of Mr. Yasuda was posted online, Yoshihide Suga, a chief cabinet secretary, reiterated the government’s stance. “We don’t acknowledge a request for ransom money,” he said.

The Japanese have also been unsympathetic to captives who go into danger zones and are taken hostage.

Tiffany May reported from Hong Kong, and Makiko Inoue and Hisako Ueno from Tokyo. Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*