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Japan: Shinzo Abe 'relieved' at hostage's release but awaits confirmation

World News
Wed, 24 Oct 2018
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Tokyo: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday he was relieved that a Japanese hostage believed to have been captured in Syria three years ago had been released, but added that the government still needed to confirm the man's identity.

Japan had received information that a man believed to be Jumpei Yasuda, a freelance journalist, had been released, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said late on Tuesday.

The government had notified Yasuda's wife, but still needed to confirm his identity, he said.

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

Since then he has appeared occasionally in online videos.

Speaking to reporters, Abe thanked Qatar and Turkey for their cooperation in freeing the man.

"I'm relieved to hear the information. We want to confirm whether the man is Mr Jumpei Yasuda as soon as possible," Abe said.

Suga said the government would confirm the identity of the man, who was at a Turkish immigration facility in the Antakya region, near the border with Syria, some time after 3 p.m. Japan time (0600 GMT).

Suga said no ransom was paid.

Yasuda's parents spoke to reporters outside their house near Tokyo.

"Above everything else, I want to see him being fine," said his father, Hideaki Yasuda.

"When he's back, I want to tell him one thing, and that'll be 'good job hanging in there'," he said.

Yasuda's mother, Sachiko Yasuda, choked back tears as she clutched a white handkerchief.

"I could do nothing but pray. So I've been praying every day," she said.

It was not the first time Yasuda had been detained in the Middle East.

He was held in Baghdad in 2004 and drew criticism at home for drawing the government into negotiations for his release. 

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