• Kyodo

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Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said his country will do its best to save the life of a Japanese man believed to have been captured earlier this month in northern Syria by the extremist Islamic State militant group.

In what is believed to be the first comment on the incident by a senior Syrian official, Mekdad said Monday: “We promise to do our best to see if we can save the life of this person. We shall do our best.” But he also said that Damascus had no information about whether Haruna Yukawa is alive.

Yukawa, 42, is believed to have been traveling with rebel fighters from the Islamic Front and the Free Syrian Army when he was captured Aug. 14 by the Islamic State during a firefight in Marea roughly 30 km north of Aleppo.

Mekdad acknowledged that the Syrian government has “received some communication from the Japanese government,” and said, “I assure the Japanese people that we are looking into the issue and if we can achieve something, we shall inform the Japanese side.

“We hope that his life will be saved and he goes back to his country without any harm,” Mekdad said.

“We condemn the kidnapping of such a person, of course,” he said, adding that he wants “all our Japanese friends to come legally . . . here and not deal with these terrorist groups because they are very dangerous.”

A regional leader of the Islamic Front said last week the Islamic State has shown willingness to negotiate a prisoner exchange for the Japanese man’s release. The leader also said Yukawa was reportedly being held in Al-Bab, 40 km northeast of Aleppo, but that could not be independently verified.

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