Threats to trade Japanese freelance journalist Jumpei Yasuda to the Islamic State group should be taken seriously said Syrian journalist Tarik Abdul Hak. Yasuda is reportedly being held by the Nusra Front, a group that has pledged its allegiance to al Qaeda.
“They want $10 million in exchange; and if they don’t get it, they’re going to trade him to ISIS to get back their own people,” Hak told the Japan Times late Monday, using an acronym for the terror group.
Hak has been tasked as the liaison to communicate with media groups by the group holding Yasuda hostage. He told the Japan Times that his role in the hostage situation is limited to conveying messages. Nusra Front has reportedly set a one-month deadline to receive the payment, but Hak said the group could drop its demand from $10 million down to $3 million.
“Yasuda is miserable. He disobeyed the government, but he doesn’t deserve to be ignored, because if he is sent to ISIS, he will surely die,” Hak said.
A photograph of Yasuda holding a sign that read, “Please help me. This is my last chance,” was posted online Sunday. Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Monday that Tokyo believes the photo is of Yasuda. Kishida said the government was doing everything possible to help him. Hak said the photograph was taken inside of Syria.
Hak said that no one from the Japanese government had begun talks to free Yasuda, but that the group holding him was willing to negotiate as fighting in Syria continues. A video of Yasuda was posted online in March.
"I have to say to [sic] something to my country: When you’re sitting there, wherever you are, in a dark room, suffering with the pain, there’s still no one. No one answering. No one responding. You’re invisible,” Yasuda reportedly said in the video.
Hak said that Yasuda was captured in July 2015. He is believed to have been captured in the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib.
Syria was the deadliest country for journalists in 2015 with 14 killed, according to a count by the advocacy group the Committee to Protect Journalists. Japanese war correspondent Kenji Goto was beheaded by ISIS in 2015.