Missing Japanese journalist’s photo posted online
Tokyo, May 30: A fresh photo of a Japanese journalist who went missing in Syria last year has emerged online, showing the heavily bearded man holding a sign saying this is his “last chance”.
The photo, which received widespread coverage in Japanese media Monday, shows freelance journalist Jumpei Yasuda, who has been missing for almost a year, wearing an orange shirt, his hair and beard grown long.
He is seen holding a piece of paper with a handwritten message in Japanese that says: “Please help. This is the last chance. Jumpei Yasuda.”
Japanese public broadcaster NHK and other media showed the photo.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that the man shown in the image is likely Yasuda.
“The government is now analysing the image,” he said.
It was not clear when or where the image was taken, but it emerged after footage of Yasuda was posted online in March.
In the one-minute video, the bearded man wearing a black jumper with a scarf around his neck says in English: “Hello, I am Jumpei Yasuda. Today is my birthday, 16 March.”
The footage was posted online by Tarik Abdul Hak, who told AFP it had been provided to him by a group called al-Noor, which he said “has been mandated by (the al-Qaeda-linked) al-Nusra to carry out a mediation for his release”.
NHK reported that it was the same person who had posted the new photo online.
Militants from the self-styled Islamic State group last year beheaded Japanese war correspondent Kenji Goto and his friend Haruna Yukawa.
The government in Tokyo was criticised for what detractors saw as its flat-footed response to the crisis at the time, including apparently missed opportunities to free both men.
Earlier this month, three Spanish journalists, who had been held hostage in Syria by an Al Qaeda-linked group, were released.
They shared part of their time in captivity with Yasuda, according to Spain’s Europa Press news agency, which did not cite any sources.