Japanese journalist goes missing in Syria

Updated | A Japanese journalist has gone missing in Syria. Colleagues of Jumpei Yasuda, a freelance war reporter who was a friend of Kenji Goto, the Isis hostage who was beheaded earlier this year, now worry he has also been captured by Islamist militants.

Concerns were raised for the safety of the freelance war correspondent Yasuda after he stopped posting on Twitter at the end of June, having spent months tweeting at least one update per day from Syria.

His final tweet, posted on 20 June, had said he was experiencing "serious, no-joke resistance" to his reporting within the country. "I have been hiding my location in blogs and tweets up to now," he tweeted, adding "that is going to be difficult from now... it will be too dangerous."

At a news conference last Friday, Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said that the Japanese government had not received any information about Yasuda's whereabouts or his condition.

Yesterday, a senior Foreign Ministry official said they had still not received any reports of Yasuda's location, whether he has been captured or information to suggest he was still in Syria.

41-year-old Yasuda is a veteran war reporter who has worked from numerous conflict zones and has been held captive by an armed group before.

In 2004, Yasuda was abducted in Iraq by armed militia but managed to escape after a Sunni group negotiated with his captors. Speaking with the Japan Times in 2004, shortly after his release in Iraq, Yasuda said: "I still believe it is the mission of journalists to go to Iraq and report the war... from the perspective of the local people".

Yu Terasawa, a journalist based in Tokyo, says he has been friends with Yasuda since he returned to Japan after being kidnapped in Iraq in 2004.

He told Newsweek that, according to information he received on 5 July from Kosuke Shamil Tsuneoka, a Japanese journalist who converted to Islam and has close links with Isis militants, Yasuda has been kidnapped by al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra rather than Isis.

Terasawa claims that the Japanese government has no intention or ability to help Yasuda. "The only person who is trying to make an effort to help Yasuda is Kosuke Tsuneoka," he says, "but the government rejected his request to enter Turkey a few days ago."

The Foreign Ministry of Japan has issued an evacuation advisory to all Japanese nationals planning to enter Syria. In February 2015, the Japanese government began confiscating the passports of journalists they believed were intent on entering Syria.

Correction: This article originally misspelled the name of Yu Terasawa.