Tsuneoka arrives in Japan on Tuesday. (Reuters/Kyodo)
Tsuneoka arrives in Japan on Tuesday. (Reuters/Kyodo)

Kidnapped Japanese freelancer released in Afghanistan

New York, September 7, 2010–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the weekend release of Japanese freelance journalist Kosuke Tsuneoka, who spent more than five months in captivity in Afghanistan.

Tsuneoka’s kidnappers released him to the Japanese Embassy on Saturday night and he returned to Japan on Monday, according to local and international news reports. He appeared to be in good health and said he had not been mistreated. He went missing during a reporting trip in a Taliban-controlled region of northern Afghanistan in late March.

The identity of Tsuneoka’s abductors remains unclear. Afghan security officials said in June that Taliban militants had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, according to Tokyo-based agency Kyodo News. Tsuneoka said after his release that they were not Taliban insurgents, but “a group of corrupt armed factions” whose commander has links to the Afghan government, while the Japanese Embassy in Kabul said the group’s affiliation was not known, Kyodo News reported. A Japanese government spokesman said Monday the government had not paid ransom to the kidnappers, according to Agence France-Presse.

“We are relieved that Kosuke Tsuneoka has been freed and is in good health,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator. “We hope that journalists will no longer be the target of kidnappings and those who are in captivity will be released.

France 3 television journalists Hervé Ghesquière and Stéphane Taponier, their translator, Mohammed Reza, and the group’s unidentified driver are still being held by Taliban kidnappers in eastern Kapisa province. They were abducted in December 2009.