Photo emerges of Japanese journalist assumed kidnapped in Syria
Jumpei Yasuda is shown holding a sign which says "please help me"
A photo of a Japanese hostage in Syria holding up a sign which reads, “Please help me,” and “This is the last chance,” along with his name in Japanese has emerged about two months after he was last seen in what appeared to be a hostage video.
The newer image shows a heavily-bearded Jumpei Yasuda, wearing an orange shirt, holding the handwritten sign. CNN cannot verify when the photo was taken.
Neither proof-of-life posting, however, definitively identifies his captors.
Al Qaeda-affiliated al Nusra front is active in the area where he was believed to be taken, but ISIS – which has beheaded captive foreign journalists – is the the dominant militant group there.
Yasuda’s mother told Japanese state broadcaster NHK that she learned about the news after she woke up this morning. She believes it is her son in the image.
“As far as I see the photo, he is my son, but I have not received any information yet,” she said. “I just pray for his safety and wait quietly.”
When the earlier video was released in March, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government was gathering information on the situation and was not aware of any random demands.
Al Nusra Front released three Spanish journalists earlier in May.
Suga arrived at the Prime Minister’s office early Monday morning, and said that the safety of Japanese citizens was the “most important responsibility” of the government. He added that they were still tapping “various information networks” and were analyzing the image to confirm that it was Yasuda.
According to his website, Yasuda has been a journalist since 1997, first working for newspapers before going freelance in 2003, after a trip to Afghanistan.
He began reporting from Iraq and had been held in custody several times.
Another Japanese journalist, Kenji Goto, was executed by ISIS in a highly publicized killing in January 2015 after crossing into ISIS-controlled Syria to report. Goto, a fellow member of Japan’s small community of freelance war reporters, was a friend of Yasuda’s.
The earlier video
The previous video referenced the date March 16, although CNN has been unable to independently verify the video was shot then. Yasuda’s hair and beard are significantly longer in the newly-released image, suggesting that it was taken some time after the the video was shot.
In the video released in March, Yasuda delivers a short message in English.
“Hello, I am Jumpei Yasuda and today is my birthday, 16 March. They told me that I can speak what I want freely. And I can send a message through this to anyone. I love you my wife, father, mother, brother. I always think about you. I want to hug you. I want to talk with you but I can’t anymore. Just I can say: Please take care.
“My life, 42 years, all was good, especially since eight years, so happy. I have to say to something to my country: When you’re sitting there, wherever you are, in a dark room, suffering with the pain, there’s still no one. No one answering. No one responding. You’re invisible. You are not exist. No one care about you.”