October 23, 2018 / 2:58 PM / a month ago

Japan says journalist captured in Syria three years ago has been freed

FILE PHOTO: Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda, who is seen in this photo sent by e-mail to a Kyodo News photographer on June 23, 2015 before Yasuda's departure to Syria, with the message reading, "I will smuggle myself into Syria from now", is seen in this undated photo released by Kyodo on December 24, 2015. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) - A man believed to be a Japanese freelance journalist who was captured three years ago in Syria has been freed, a Japanese government spokesman said on Tuesday.

“We received information from Qatar that Mr. Jumpei Yasuda had been released,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters. “We were informed that he is in an immigration facility in Antakya (in Turkey).”

Suga said the government was making checks to confirm that the man was in fact Yasuda. But he said that in light of the available information that was highly likely, adding that Yasuda’s wife had been notified.

Japanese media reported that Yasuda, 44, had been captured by an al Qaeda affiliate after entering Syria from Turkey in 2015.

Since then, he has appeared occasionally in online videos looking increasingly unkempt with greying hair.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Nobuhiro Kubo; Editing by John Stonestreet and Helen Popper

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