Kosuke TSUNEOKA, journalist hostage in Kunduz province
Taliban militants have demanded that the Afghan government pay a ransom for a Japanese journalist who went missing in late March in northern Afghanistan. Negotiations are under way on a payment of several hundred thousand dollars for the release of Kosuke Tsuneoka, 40, according to Afghan security authorities. our colleague journalist being held captive after going missing in Afghanistan at the end of March. He has spoken to the Japanese daily, the Mainichi Shimbun in an interview, saying he is in good health.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, acknowledged that 40-year-old Kosuke Tsuneoka had been abducted and was being held captive by a regional Taliban organization, which allowed the journalist to participate in a telephone interview.
"I'm in good health and I have no injuries," the freelance journalist said during the interview, which lasted for about 30 minutes. At times a man believed to be watching over Tsuneoka could be heard making what were believed to be orders.
Tsuneoka spoke in a settled tone. He said he was being confined in a room about the size of six tatami mats at a home with a courtyard. In the room, men armed with guns watched over him 24 hours a day. His only daily food was naan bread and one bowl of potato soup, but he said, "I haven't been ill in the stomach and I haven't been violently treated."
The organization that abducted Tsuneoka is an armed faction situated in Kunduz Province near the border with Tajikistan.
"It has about 100 people and it is the first time for it to carry out an abduction," Tsuneoka said. He said the place where he was being held was "in a place southeast" of the town of Imam Sahib.
Tsuneoka said he heard during conversations with members of the group that abducted him that the group was seeking 1 million dollars as a new condition for his release. However, he said that if officials gave in to the request the same sort of incident would be repeated.
The journalist situation has been a focus today at the FCCJ in Tokyo during a press conference with a Japanese politician, leader of a small conservative group. Takeo Hiranuma called for all efforts to be made for the liberation of this Japanese journalist citizen.
"Ex president Clinton went to North Korea to liberate two American hostages" Hiranuma stated.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who arrived in Japan on Wednesday for a five-day official visit, is said to have already instructed the authorities to speed up the release negotiations. According to the authorities, based on the negotiations conducted so far, Tsuneoka's life does not appear to be in danger. The authorities said that the Japanese government had been conducting the release negotiations through the Japanese Embassy in Kabul.
However, after the negotiations stalled due to a Taliban demand that a Taliban militant being held in neighboring Pakistan be released, the Afghan government took over in negotiating with the militants. The negotiations are being conducted by telephone, according to the authorities. The Japanese Embassy said it could not comment on the matter. In Tokyo, the Japanese government refused to make specific comments, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku telling reporters that Tokyo has yet to confirm the journalist was kidnapped...
There are 2 other known hostages in Afghanistan: two France 3 Television reporters. Afghan leaders called for release of journalists held hostages http://bit.ly/cpV9mC
At least 15 journalists were kidnapped by criminal groups or insurgents last year in Afghanistan. A total of 19 journalists have been killed in Afghanistan since 11 September 2001. Eleven of them were foreign. Five of them, including radio journalist Zakia Zaki, murdered 3 years ago, on 6 June 2007, were women.
Quotes: The Mainichi Shimbun http://bit.ly/9MZaJv
agencies, reporter's notes.