A Japanese freelance journalist held hostage by Islamist militants for 40 months in Syria left for Japan from Turkey on Thursday after being freed and said he was happy to be going home.
Jumpei Yasuda, who went missing in Syria where he went to cover the civil war and was confirmed safe by the Japanese government on Wednesday, is scheduled to arrive in Tokyo later on Thursday, reports Xinhua news agency.
“I am happy that I can return to Japan. At the same time, I don’t know what will happen from here or what I should do. I am thinking about what I need to do,” Yasuda, 44, said before boarding his flight home from the southern Turkish city of Antalya.
He said that his time held captive was hell both physically and psychologically.
He said the thought of not being freed day after day led him to lose control of himself, and living in a cell had become normal for him, although paradoxically was a painful reality.
As for his release, Yasuda told Japanese public broadcaster NHK that he was taken by car and handed over to Turkish officials at the border and taken to immigration.
On Wednesday, the Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono confirmed that a man released by Syrian militants was indeed Yasuda.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said late Tuesday that the Qatari government had notified Japan that Yasuda had been released.
Suga denied on Wednesday that Japan had secured Yasuda’s release by paying a ransom despite some organisations’ claims to the contrary.
Yasuda was initially believed to have been captured and held by an Al Qaeda-linked group.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also thanked the leaders of Turkey and Qatar for their part in helping secure Yasuda’s release.