• Kyodo

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Several credit cards belonging to Japanese freelance journalist Jumpei Yasuda have been used since contact with him was lost last year after he entered Syria, police said.

They said Tuesday they have found that the credit cards of Yasuda, 42, were used for transactions amounting to tens of thousands of yen, including to pay communications costs, via multiple European websites. The police have also found indications that his Facebook account has been accessed.

It is believed that Yasuda is being held by the Nusra Front, a Syrian rebel group that broke with al-Qaida and changed its name earlier this year.

The police suspect the group holding the journalist used his cards and accessed his Facebook account.

Yasuda left Japan in May 2015 and contact with him was lost the next month after he entered Syria from southern Turkey. He was scheduled to return to Japan in mid-July last year.

The police have requested further information, such as credit card and online connection records, from relevant foreign parties.

The credit cards were not used in shops or other places where they would need to be presented or where Yasuda’s signature or password would have been required. All transactions on the cards have since been stopped.

The police also said several of Yasuda’s friends sent messages to him on Facebook. While his account showed all the messages were read, there were no replies from Yasuda.

A video of Yasuda was posted online in March indicating he could be a hostage of militants in Syria. A Syrian man who uploaded the video told Kyodo News at the time that the video was received from a person representing Nusra Front.

In May, a new image believed to be of Yasuda was sent to multiple media outlets. In the image, a bearded man held a sign bearing the message “Please help.”

The captors are reportedly demanding a ransom from the Japanese government.

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