A Japanese freelance journalist has arrived home in Tokyo after more than three years in captivity in Syria.

Onlookers watched through airport terminal windows as a Turkish Airlines flight carrying Jumpei Yasuda touched down at Tokyo airport Thursday, and as Yasuda disembarked, walked towards a waiting van and was driven away.

The 44-year-old journalist walked into an immigration office in the southern Turkish city of Antakya on Tuesday. Japanese diplomats confirmed his identity Wednesday.

Yasuda was abducted in 2015 by an al-Qaida-affiliated group after arriving in Syria to cover that country's civil war.

During an earlier trip from Antakya to Istanbul, Yasuda told Japanese reporters that his 40 months in captivity was "hell," both physically and mentally, and even started to believe he would never be released.

He said he was happy to finally be going home, but expressed concerns about his future: "I don't know what will happen from here or what I should do," he told reporters.

Yasuda also said he had not spoken Japanese in more than three years.

The circumstances of Yasuda's release are unclear. But a senior Japanese government spokesman said Qatar and Turkey negotiated his freedom. The spokesman denied a ransom was paid.

This is the second time Yasuda was kidnapped while covering the Middle East, having been held hostage for a brief period in Baghdad in 2004.

Source: Voice of America