AFP, September 6, 2010

Japanese journalist says Afghan kidnappers were not Taliban but corrupt Afghan soldiers

Japanese journalist says Afghan kidnappers were not Taliban

Tokyo - A Japanese freelance journalist released at the weekend after five months’ captivity in Afghanistan said in an online posting Monday that his kidnappers were not Taliban but corrupt Afghan soldiers.

Kosuke Tsuneoka, freed kidnapped journalist in Afghanistan
AP: A Japanese journalist held hostage in Afghanistan for five months managed to send out a message via Twitter that he was alive when his captors asked him how to use a cell phone. A couple of days later, the militants — whom Tsuneoka said identified themselves as members of Hizb-e-Islami but posed as Taliban to the Japanese government — set him free in part because he is a Muslim. He had converted to Islam in 2000. (Photo: Shizuo Kambayashi)

Kosuke Tsuneoka, 41, who had been missing in northern Afghanistan since April, has been under the protection of the Japanese embassy since Saturday, and was Monday travelling back to Japan via Dubai.

Tsuneoka, who has covered conflicts in Iraq, Georgia, Chechnya, Ethiopia and other hotspots, said in a Twitter message that "the culprits are not Taliban. They were a corrupt military faction."

"They blackmailed the Japanese government, pretending they were Taliban," he said in a post on Twitter. He said he feared he would be killed to ensure his silence.

Earlier reports said Tsuneoka's kidnappers had demanded the release of imprisoned comrades, and that Taliban militants had also claimed responsibility and demanded the Afghan government pay a ransom for the journalist.

Japanese media had reported on ongoing negotiations over a payment of several hundred thousand dollars for Tsuneoka's release.

However, Japan's top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, said Monday: "The Japanese government and the family of the kidnap victim did not pay a ransom to the culprits."

Criminal groups and Taliban insurgents have kidnapped several dozen foreigners, many of them journalists, since the 2001 US-led invasion that ousted the Taliban regime in Kabul and sparked the current insurgency.

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