Japanese Journalist Appeals for Help in New Hostage Video after Abduction in Syria, Japan Vows to Rescue Him

An extremist group has released videos of a Japanese journalist and an Italian man held captive in Syria in which they appeal for their release, United States-based monitors said on Tuesday as quoted by The National. The two men – Japanese freelance journalist Jumpei Yasuda and Italian national Alessandro Sandrini – appear in two separate videos that are nonetheless similar in their staging and were released by the SITE group, which tracks white supremacist and extremist organisations.

SITE did not say which group was responsible for the videos.

Both men are shown kneeling in front of a wall wearing orange jumpsuits while armed men dressed head-to-toe in black stand behind them. Mr Jumpei is thought to have been abducted by the Al Nusra Front, a former Al Qaeda affiliate, in northern Syria in 2015. He identifies himself as Korean in the video but speaks Japanese, giving the recording date as July 25 and stating that he is in a bad situation and asking for help.

Mr Sandrini gives a different date, July 19, and says that it is his last request to the Italian government. The Italian hostage was kidnapped in Turkey in October 2016 before being taken to Syria, according to reports in the Italian media. He is believed to be from Brescia and is said to be 32 years old.

Japan’s government said Wednesday it’s doing its utmost for the rescue of a Japanese journalist believed to be held in Syria after a video of a man appearing to be him was posted on the internet, South China Morning Post reports.

Freelance journalist Jumpei Yasuda was last heard from in Syria in June 2015. It is thought he is being held by the Al-Nusra Front, a former al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. Chief Cabinet Spokesman Yoshihide Suga said that he believed the man in the video was Yasuda. Suga refused to give further details about the rescue efforts.

“The biggest responsibility for the government is to protect the safety of Japanese nationals,” he said. “We are pursuing our utmost effort (for his rescue) through various information networks.”

The man in the video released Tuesday said he was in harsh environment and needed an immediate rescue. The bearded man spoke in Japanese but said he’s Korean named “Umaru.” He cited the date as July 25, 2018, in the 20-second footage apparently filmed outdoors, according to National Post.

Yasuda started reporting on the Middle East in early 2000s. He was taken hostage in Iraq in 2004 with three other Japanese, but was freed after Islamic clerics negotiated his release. His most recent trip to Syria was in 2015 to report on his journalist friend Kenji Goto, who was taken hostage and killed by the Islamic State group.

Contact was lost with Yasuda after 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 whereabouts and activities.