Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda appeals for help in new video after abduction in Syria

Jumpei Yasuda is thought to have been abducted by the Al-Nusra Front, a former al-Qaeda affiliate, in northern Syria in 2015

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 August, 2018, 3:27pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 August, 2018, 9:34pm

Japan’s government said Wednesday it’s doing its utmost for the rescue of a Japanese journalist believed to be held in Syria after a video of a man appearing to be him was posted on the internet.

Freelance journalist Jumpei Yasuda was last heard from in Syria in June 2015.

It is thought he is being held by the Al-Nusra Front, a former al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

Chief Cabinet Spokesman Yoshihide Suga said that he believed the man in the video was Yasuda.

Suga refused to give further details about the rescue efforts.

“The biggest responsibility for the government is to protect the safety of Japanese nationals,” he said. “We are pursuing our utmost effort (for his rescue) through various information networks.”

The man in the video released Tuesday said he was in harsh environment and needed an immediate rescue.

The bearded man spoke in Japanese but said he’s Korean named “Umaru”. He cited the date as July 25, 2018, in the 20-second footage apparently filmed outdoors.

Italian national Alessandro Sandrini, who was kidnapped in Turkey in October 2016 before being taken to Syria, appeared in a separate video.

“Today is July 25, 2018. I am in a very severe condition. Please help me, right now,” Yasuda said.

Two gun-wielding men in black attire were seen standing behind him in the footage.

Sandrini gives a different date, July 19, and said that it was his last request to the Italian government.

The two separate videos that are nonetheless similar in their staging and were released by the SITE group, which tracks white supremacist and jihadist organisations.

Several videos showing an Asian man believed to be Yasuda have been also released in the past year.

Yasuda started reporting on the Middle East in early 2000s.

He was taken hostage in Iraq in 2004 with three other Japanese, but was freed after Islamic clerics negotiated his release.

His most recent trip to Syria was in 2015 to report on his journalist friend Kenji Goto, who was taken hostage and killed by Islamic State.

Contact was lost with Yasuda after a message to another Japanese freelancer on June 23, 2015.

In his last tweet two days earlier, Yasuda said his reporting was often obstructed and that he would stop tweeting his whereabouts and activities.

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Kyodo