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Japan PM Abe 'relieved' at hostage's release but wants to confirm identity

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By Reuters
Japan PM Abe 'relieved' at hostage's release but wants to confirm identity

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday he was “relieved” that a Japanese hostage believed to have been captured in Syria three years ago had been released, but added that the government still needed to confirm the man’s identity.

Late on Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tokyo had received information that a man believed to be Jumpei Yasuda, a freelance journalist, had been released. He said the government had notified Yasuda’s wife, but still needed to confirm his identity.

Yasuda, 44, had been captured by an al Qaeda affiliate after entering Syria from Turkey in 2015, according to Japanese media.

Since then he has appeared occasionally in online videos.

Speaking to reporters, Abe thanked Qatar and Turkey for their cooperation in freeing the man.

“I’m relieved to hear the information. We want to confirm whether the man is Mr. Jumpei Yasuda as soon as possible,” Abe told reporters.

Suga said on Wednesday that the government planned to confirm the identity of the man, who is at Turkey’s immigration facility in Antakya now, sometime after 3 p.m. Japan time (0600 GMT). Suga said no ransom was paid.

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim and Michael Perry)