Japan anxiously awaited confirmation that a man released from Syria is a freelance journalist who was abducted three years ago.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters he was relieved of the news and eager to confirm the man's identity. Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the man is most likely Jumpei Yasuda and he is now in Turkey.
"I would like to receive confirmation that he is Mr. Yasuda as soon as possible," said Abe.
Yasuda was abducted in 2015 by the al Qaeda representative in Syria, then known as the Nusra Front, after his contact was lost in June this year. A war observer group said it was last held by a Syrian commander of the Islamic Party of Turkistan, consisting mainly of Chinese jihadists in Syria.
Suga said Japanese diplomats would confirm his identity and check his health in a facility near the Turkish border Syria. Her report is expected later on Wednesday.
The news of Yasuda's release came from Qatar, which helped with the efforts for the release, along with Turkey and other countries in the region, Suga said, thanking her.
While the officials were trying to be cautious, Yasuda's parents said Wednesday they could not wait to see their son's return home.
"I have just prayed for his safe return," said his mother Sachiko Yasuda, 75, to Japan's public television station NHK. Her husband stood outside her home outside Tokyo, holding a "Thousand Cranes" wishing origami ornamentation. which she added every day for three years.
Yasuda began reporting on the Middle East in the early 2000s. He was arrested in Iraq in 2004 with three other Japanese as a hostage, but released after Islamic clerics negotiated his release.
His latest work in Syria involved reporting on his friend Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist who was captured and killed by the hostage.
Contact was lost with Yasuda after he posted a message on June 23, 201
Several videos showing a man who is Yasuda were released last year.
In a video released in July, the bearded man Yasuda said he was in a harsh environment and needed to
Syria is one of the most dangerous places for journalists since the conflict began in March 2011, involving dozens of people were killed or abducted.
Several journalists are still missing in Syria Their fate is unknown.
Associated Press author Bassem Mroue in Beirut has contributed to this report.