Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda has been missing since he entered Syria in June 2015. He resurfaced in a video that was posted online in March, purportedly recorded on his birthday.
He read a strange, written statement in which he appeared to be saying farewell to his family, he and gave a vague, ominous warning to his countrymen: “Where you are sitting, wherever you are, in a dark room, somewhere there is pain, there is still more. No answering, no one responding. You are invisible. You are not exist. No one cares about you.”
A year after his disappearance, Yasuda has appeared online again, this time in a photograph where he holds a sign reading, in Japanese, “Please help. This is the last chance. Jumpei Yasuda.”
Rudaw reports that Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida “confirmed that the government is analyzing the picture but noted that the image is likely Yasuda.”
A spokesman for the Japanese cabinet promised his government was “making use of a broad net of information and doing everything we can to respond.”
Some more information about Yasuda’s plight has been revealed since March. The man who posted both the new photo and earlier video online, Tarik Abdul Hak, said he received them from a group called al-Noor, which claimed to be acting as mediators on behalf of al-Qaeda’s operation in Syria, the Nusra Front.
Rudaw reports that three Spanish journalists released by one of al-Qaeda’s Syrian operations said they spent time in captivity with Yasuda.
The BBC’s sources in the Japanese government also said they believed the new photo of a heavily-bearded Yasuda was genuine. Japan Times reports that middleman Hak claims the photograph was taken on Saturday.
Hak said Yasuda’s captors “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,” according to the Japan Times. Al-Qaeda is now threatening to hand Yasuda over to the Islamic State if Tokyo still refuses to negotiate.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga seemed to indicate that communicating with the Nusra Front was included in the government’s efforts to rescue Yasuda.