A Japanese freelance journalist who was freed after more than three years of captivity in Syria said Wednesday he's safe in neighboring Turkey. "My name is Jumpei Yasuda, Japanese journalist. I have been held in Syria for 40 months," Yasuda said, somewhat haltingly in English, in videotaped comments broadcast by Japan's NHK public TV, per the AP. "Now I am in Turkey. Now I am in safe condition. Thank you very much." NHK said the video was shot inside an immigration center in southern Turkey and was released by the local government in Turkey's Hatay province. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Japanese Embassy officials met with Yasuda at the immigration center, located near the border with Syria. "We are extremely pleased that we have confirmed the safety of ... Yasuda," Kono told reporters.
Yasuda was kidnapped in 2015 by al-Qaeda's branch in Syria, the Nusra Front. Several videos with a bearded man thought to be him were released in the past year, including one in which he said he was in a harsh environment and needed to be rescued ASAP. A war monitoring group says he was most recently held by a Syrian commander with the Turkistan Islamic Party, mostly made up of Chinese jihadis in Syria. News of Yasuda's release came late Tuesday from Qatar, which helped obtain his freedom along with Turkey and other countries in the region, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, adding, "There is no fact that ransom money was paid." Syria has been one of the most dangerous places for journalists since the conflict there began in 2011, with dozens killed or kidnapped. Several journalists are still missing and their fates are unknown, including Austin Tice of Houston, who disappeared in 2012. (More on Tice here.)