Tokyo: A Japanese freelance journalist released at the weekend after five months` captivity in Afghanistan said in an online posting on Monday that his kidnappers were not Taliban but corrupt Afghan soldiers.
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 today 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 micro-blogging site 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 today: "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.
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.
(With Agencies` inputs)