TOKYO – TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese journalist who was abducted by militants in Afghanistan five months ago has been freed by his captors and left the country, Japan's Foreign Ministry said.
Kosuke Tsuneoka, a freelance journalist and veteran of war zones, was kidnapped on April 1. He was released Saturday night to a Japanese embassy and appeared tired but otherwise unharmed, the ministry said in a statement.
"Thank you to all those that worried about me and worked for my release," Tsuneoka wrote on his blog Monday morning from Dubai. "I am scheduled to return to Haneda tonight," he said, referring to an airport in Tokyo.
Tsuneoka's mother told Kyodo News agency that her 41-year-old son had called home from the embassy after being released in the Dasht-e-Archi district of Kunduz province.
In a series of messages to his Twitter account, Tsuneoka said he had thought he would be executed, and that he was not being held by the Taliban, as reported in the Japanese media. His abductors were local militants posing as Taliban to decieve the Japanese government, he wrote.
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.
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.