TOKYO (TR) – The Japanese government said on Wednesday that it believes a video that surfaced earlier this week shows journalist Junpei Yasuda, who was likely abducted in the Middle East three years ago, reports TBS News (Aug. 1).
In the clip, which emerged on Monday, the man, who sports a gray and black beard, is positioned in front of two masked persons holding assault rifles. When asked by a reporter at a press conference whether the person is in fact missing journalist, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “We think that is the case.”
The clip extend for 18 seconds. “Today is July 25, 2018,” the person believed to be Yasuda, 44, said in Japanese. “These are very serious circumstances. Please help me right now.” He also said that he is a Korean national named Umar.
“The security of the Japanese people is our most important responsibility, and we are making every effort to respond by utilizing various information networks,” Suga also said.
Yasuda went missing in July of 2015, shortly after secretly crossing into Syria from Turkey. He went into the country to report on issues such as the execution of freelance journalist Kenji Goto, who was killed after being captured by Islamic State militants that same year.
Al-Nusra Front, a Sunni Islamist militia aligned with al-Qaida, is believed to have captured Yasuda. Previous reports indicated that they are seeking a ransom.
In May of 2016, a photo that surfaced on social media showed Yasuda holding a sign that read: “Please help. This is the last chance.”
The following month, it was learned that a negotiator working for Yasuda’s release terminated their efforts “after the Japanese government did not respond to the requests of the captors.”
Last month, news outlets showed another video featuring a person believed to be Yasuda. “I am Junpei. I am fine,” the person said in the video while seated in a chair. “I am praying for the safety of my family. I just want to see my family. I hope to see you soon.”