Abducted Japanese journalist freed in Afghanistan after 5 months, reports say

By Tomoko A. Hosaka, AP
Sunday, September 5, 2010

Reports: Afghan captors release Japanese reporter

TOKYO — A Japanese journalist who was abducted by apparent Taliban militants in Afghanistan five months ago has been freed by his captors, reports said Sunday.

Kosuke Tsuneoka, a freelance journalist and veteran of war zones, was released Saturday night in good health and was at the Japanese Embassy in Kabul, Kyodo News agency cited government sources as saying. Japan’s Foreign Ministry and its embassy in the Afghan capital declined to comment.

Tsuneoka’s mother told Kyodo that her 41-year-old son had called home from the embassy after being released in the Dasht-e-Archi district of Kunduz province.

Tsuneoka’s captors apparently decided to release him because he is a fellow Muslim, Kyodo said.

According to his personal website, Tsuneoka converted to the religion in 2000 while in Moscow.

Tsuneoka had been missing since April 1, when he posted a message on Twitter saying he had traveled to a Taliban-controlled area in northern Afghanistan. Friends later received word that he had been kidnapped.

Hopes for his release grew over the weekend after two new messages in English suddenly emerged on his Twitter account. He assured his followers that he was alive and in jail in Kunduz. It was not clear how or why the messages were sent.

This isn’t the first time Tsuneoka has been abducted. He went missing in Georgia in 2001 and was held for several months by unidentified individuals, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. He was freed during a Georgian military operation.

Tsuneoka is the latest of more than half a dozen foreign journalists kidnapped in Afghanistan, including two French reporters who were seized last December in Kapisa province just outside Kabul.

On Sunday, the French government said it had received proof in the last 10 days that the France-3 television reporters, Stephane Taponier and Herve Ghesquiere, are alive and in good health. It said negotiations for their release were interrupted during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, but were set to resume once it ends in a few days.

A New York Times reporter, David Rohde, escaped last year along with an Afghan colleague seven months after being kidnapped while interviewing insurgents in the eastern province of Logar. The pair, along with their Afghan driver, were held in numerous compounds in Afghanistan and Pakistan while their captors dithered over a ransom.

Shortly after Rohde’s escape, another New York Times reporter, Stephen Farrell, and his Afghan translator were kidnapped by Taliban insurgents in Kunduz. The British-Irish Farrell was rescued soon after in a raid by British commandos in which the translator and a British commando were killed.

In October, 2008, Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reporter Mellissa Fung was seized at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul. She was released four weeks later after being held in a pit, chained and blindfolded. Around that time, Dutch journalist Joanie de Rijke was held for a week after being seized in the Surobi area east of Kabul.

Associated Press Writer Christopher Bodeen in Kabul contributed to this report.

will not be displayed