The governor of Turkey's southern Hatay province says Jumpei Yasuda was rescued as a result of efforts by Turkish intelligence and security units. The Japanese journalist was kidnapped in 2015 by Al Qaeda's branch in Syria, known as the Nusra Front.

Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda is pictured at the local police headquarters in Hatay, Turkey October 24, 2018.
Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda is pictured at the local police headquarters in Hatay, Turkey October 24, 2018. (Reuters)

Japan confirmed Wednesday the man freed from Syria is Jumpei Yasuda, a Japanese freelance journalist kidnapped in 2015, and that he is in good health.

Governor of Turkey's Hatay province, Erdal Ata said Yasuda had no identification with him when he was brought from Syria, which he had entered illegally.

Ata said Jumpei Yasuda was rescued as a result of efforts by Turkish intelligence and security units. He added Yasuda will be handed over to Japanese officials as soon as necessary procedures on the Turkish side are completed.

Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono earlier said, "We are extremely pleased that we have confirmed the safety of Mr. Jumpei Yasuda."

He said Japanese embassy officials met with Yasuda at an immigration centre in southern Turkey near the border with Syria, where he has been protected since he was freed on Tuesday. 

Kono said Yasuda appeared to be in good health.

Yasuda was kidnapped in 2015 by Al Qaeda's branch in Syria, known at the time as the Nusra Front, after contact with him was lost in June that year.

The news of Yasuda's release came late Tuesday from Qatar, which helped in efforts for his release along with Turkey and other countries in the region, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, thanking them for their support.

Both Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Kono thanked Qatar and Turkey for their cooperation in freeing the man. 

Asked if any ransom was paid, Suga said, "There is no fact that ransom money was paid."

Yasuda's parents earlier said they couldn't wait to see their son return home.

"I was just praying for his safe return," his mother Sachiko Yasuda, 75, told Japan's NHK public television as she and her husband stood in front of their home outside Tokyo, holding a "thousand cranes" well-wishing origami ornament that she had added to every day for three years.

Yasuda started reporting on the Middle East in the early 2000s. He was taken hostage in Iraq in 2004 with three other Japanese, but was freed after Islamic clerics negotiated his release.

His last work in Syria involved reporting on his friend Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist who was taken hostage and killed by the Daesh.

Contact lost

Contact was lost with Yasuda after he sent 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 location and activities.

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

In one video released in July, a bearded man thought to be Yasuda said he was in a harsh environment and needed to be rescued immediately.

Syria has been one of the most dangerous places for journalists since the conflict there began in March 2011, with dozens killed or kidnapped.

Several journalists are still missing in Syria and their fates are unknown.

Those missing include Austin Tice of Houston, Texas, who disappeared in August 2012 while covering the conflict, which has killed some 400,000 people. 

A video released a month later showed him blindfolded and held by armed men, saying "Oh, Jesus." He has not been heard from since.

Tice is a former Marine who has reported for The Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers, CBS and other outlets, and disappeared shortly after his 31st birthday.

Another is British photojournalist John Cantlie, who appeared in Daesh propaganda videos. Cantlie has worked for several publications, including The Sunday Times, The Sun and The Sunday Telegraph

He was kidnapped with American journalist James Foley in November 2012. Deash beheaded Foley in August 2014.

Lebanese journalist Samir Kassab, who worked for Sky News, was kidnapped on Oct. 14, 2013, along with a colleague from Mauritania, Ishak Moctar, and a Syrian driver while on a trip in northern Syria.

In March 2014, two Spanish journalists — correspondent Javier Espinosa and photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova — were released six months after being kidnapped by an Al Qaeda-linked group.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies