Photo of hostage Japanese journalist released nearly a year after he entered Syria
A new picture of Jumpei Yasuda has surfaced, nearly a year after the Japanese journalist entered Syria and went missing a month after, in July.
The 42-year-old Yasuda is believed to be held by a militant al-Qaeda branch, called the Nusra Front, that is fighting the government.
The group released the picture to multiple news outlets on Sunday, showing Yasuda with a longer beard and hair than in previous media releases.
According to the Japan Times, the card Yasuda holds up in the picture reads in Japanese: "Please help. This is the last chance. Jumpei Yasuda."
The group has reached out to global news outlets via a mediator, who said it has repeatedly demanded ransom from the Japanese government for Yasuda, and that it has threatened to hand him over to Islamic State fighters if the Japanese government doesn't negotiate with them.
The Asahi Shimbun quoted Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, who said on Monday: "Securing the safety of Japanese nationals is the most important responsibility of the government.
"We are making every effort to deal with the situation by continuing to utilize our various intelligence networks."
The release of the photo follows a video of Yasuda that was posted on Facebook in March. In the video, Yasuda grimly addresses his friends and family, and apologises for not being able to speak to them.
It remains unclear if Yasuda voluntarily entered Syria last year, but he had stated in 2004 after he was held hostage in Iraq while reporting there, that he believed it was his "mission" to report from war zones.
Last year on Jun. 23, before Yasuda went to Syria, a picture of him was emailed to Kyodo News with the message "I will smuggle myself into Syria from now."
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