Japanese Journalist Captured by Kurdish Fighters in Mosul

Kosuke Tsuneoka, a Japanese freelance war correspondent was arrested by Kurdish authorities on November 1st. Tsuneoka, 46, was reporting on the Kurdish and Iraqi battle to recapture Mosul from Islamic State control. The Associated Press reports that he was captured by Kurdish peshmerga forces who have been fighting alongside the Iraqi army, Shia militias, and U.S.-led coalition forces in an offensive to take back the city.

While the AP was unclear on reasons for his arrest, Rudaw, a Kurdish news source, was told by an anonymous Kurdish official that Tsuneoka was suspected to be a member of ISIS, currently undergoing questioning by Kurdish security forces, and likely to be released soon to the Japanese Consulate in Erbil.

This is not the first time the veteran journalist has been captured by security forces. According to the Japan Times, Tsuneoka was been previously abducted in northern Afghanistan back in 2010 and held hostage for five months at the hands of Hizb-i-Islami.

Following his release, Tsuneoka spoke at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan and said that he had used Twitter to alert his followers that he was alive, albeit in jail. He was able to tweet his location after one of his captors asked Tsuneoka to show him how to use his cellphone to access the internet.

Tsuneoka is a Muslim convert and, since beginning his work in the region in 2002, had developed an extensive contact network within ISIS and other groups.


Credit: Kosuke Tsuneoka

Pictures such as the one shown here, illustrate Tseuneoka posed in front of an ISIS flag, have raised concerns as to Tseuneoka’s business with ISIS.

Prior to his arrest he was permitted to travel within the caliphate and even offered help to the Japanese government in order to help free hostages. In 2015 video journalist Kenji Goto and military contractor Haruna Yukawa were held hostage and Tseuneoka attempted to bargain for their freedom instead of being tried under Islamic law. However, the head of the Center for Contemporary Islamic Studies in Japan, Osamu Miya, believes that Tsuneoka may have been detained for being a suspected spy for an organization that opposes the Kurds.  

No further details have been released, but Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, has urged Japanese citizens against entering Iraq.

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