A Japanese journalist who was held captive in Syria for more than 3 years was freed on Tuesday. Jumpei Yusada, 44, was captured by the Nusra Front, a militant group with connections to Al-Qaeda, around 40 months ago. This isn’t the first time he was kidnapped. In 2004 he was taken prisoner in Iraq by Islamic clerics but eventually released, reports the Guardian.
In an immigration center in Antakya, Turkey, Jumpei Yusada said in a video, “I have been held in Syria for 40 months, now in Turkey. Now I’m in safe condition. Thank you very much.” Yusada looked a little slender and tired with his baggy black t-shirt and unshaven beard. Japanese diplomats went down to the immigration center and confirmed his identity.
“I’m so happy to be free. But I’m a bit worried about what will happen to me or what I should do from now on,” Yusada told Japan’s NHK television while on his flight back to Tokyo. Yusada worries that he’s fallen behind the world while he was captured. He went on to describe his captivity as living in “hell” where he was living in a small cell and tortured. “Day after day, I thought, oh I can’t go home again, and the thought took over my head and gradually made it difficult for me to control myself.” Yusada said at one time he was not allowed to take a bath for eight months and was starved to the point he thought he would die.
Jumpei Yusada started to lose hope when his captors kept saying they would free him but never would. However, for some reason his captors let him go on Tuesday when they drove him to the Turkish border and handed him over to the Turkish authorities.
Jumpei Yusada had been in Syria to report on his friend Kenni Goto, a Japanese journalist, who was killed by the Islamic State. He was soon captured. “I was robbed of all my luggage, and that made me so angry. I couldn’t do any of my work for 40 months,” Yusada said.
After 40 months as a prisoner, Yusada said that he’s having trouble speaking in his native language, reports the Guardian. His wife, a singer, who goes by the name Myu, was on live television when she got the word that her husband was released and safe. She said, “First I want to tell him welcome back and then praise him for his ordeal. I’m glad he survived.”
His mother Sachiko, holding back tears, told reporters, “I could do nothing but pray, so I’ve been praying every day.” She also told reporters that she folded 10000 paper cranes, hoping her wish of his safe return home would come true. His father told reporters, “Above everything else I want to see that he is fine. When he gets back I want to tell him one thing, that he did a good job hanging in there.” When Yasuda arrived in Tokyo, his wife hugged him and gave him some of his mother’s homemade rice balls.
The Japan Times reported that the terrorist group wanted $10 million for Yusada’s release, but Japan’s chief cabinet denies any money exchanged hands.