Fam­ily re­leased af­ter five years in cap­tiv­ity

The West Australian - - WORLD -

Five years af­ter they were seized by a ter­ror­ist net­work in the moun­tains of Afghanistan, an Amer­i­can wo­man, her Cana­dian hus­band and their three chil­dren — born in cap­tiv­ity — are free af­ter a dra­matic res­cue by the US and Pak­istani gov­ern­ments.

The US said Pak­istan se­cured the re­lease of Cait­lan Cole­man and Joshua Boyle — who were held by the Haqqani net­work, which has ties to the Tal­iban.

The op­er­a­tion, which came af­ter years of US pres­sure on Pak­istan for as­sis­tance, un­folded quickly and in­cluded what some de­scribed as a shootout and a dan­ger­ous raid. US of­fi­cials did not con­firm the de­tails.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump praised Pak­istan for its will­ing­ness to “do more to pro­vide se­cu­rity in the re­gion” and said the re­lease sug­gested other “coun­tries are start­ing to re­spect the United States of Amer­ica once again”.

The cou­ple were kid­napped in Oc­to­ber 2012 while on a back­pack­ing trip to Rus­sia, Kaza­khstan, Ta­jik­istan and Kyr­gyzs­tan, and then to Afghanistan.

Ms Cole­man, a de­vout Catholic, was sev­eral months preg­nant at the time, “naive”, but also “ad­ven­ture­some” with a hu­man­i­tar­ian bent, her fa­ther James said in 2012.

The only trace of the cou­ple since they van­ished had been in the form of videos re­leased by their cap­tors and fam­ily let­ters.

The Pak­istani mil­i­tary said the fam­ily were “be­ing repa­tri­ated to the coun­try of their ori­gin”. But it was not yet known when they would re­turn to North Amer­ica.

A US se­cu­rity of­fi­cial said they were in a safe lo­ca­tion in Pak­istan.

The Pak­istani mil­i­tary said the fam­ily had been freed af­ter they had crossed the border from Afghanistan. Mr Boyle de­scribed a scene in which shots rang out as he, his wife and chil­dren were in­ter­cepted by Pak­istani forces while be­ing trans­ported in the trunk of their cap­tors’ car.

Mr Boyle told his par­ents there was a shootout in which some of his cap­tors were killed and the last words he had heard from the kid­nap­pers were “kill the hostage”, his fa­ther, Pa­trick, said. Joshua Boyle told his fa­ther he’d been hit by shrap­nel in the leg. In­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials said the con­fronta­tion hap­pened near a road cross­ing in Ko­hat in north-west Pak­istan.

A US mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said a mil­i­tary hostage team had flown to Pak­istan on Wed­nes­day, pre­pared to fly the fam­ily out. But as the fam­ily were walk­ing to the plane, Joshua Boyle said he did not want to board.

His fa­ther said his son was con­cerned be­cause the plane was headed to Ba­gram Air Base and he wanted the fam­ily re­turned to North Amer­ica.

An­other US of­fi­cial said Joshua Boyle was ner­vous about be­ing in “cus­tody” given his fam­ily ties. He was once mar­ried to Zaynab Khadr, the older sis­ter of for­mer Guan­tanamo Bay de­tainee Omar Khadr and the daugh­ter of a se­nior alQaida fi­nancier.

Kill the hostage. Kid­nap­pers’ call dur­ing the at­tack

Pic­tures: AP

An im­age re­leased by the Tal­iban last year of Cait­lan Cole­man, Joshua Boyle and their chil­dren.

Linda and Pa­trick Boyle, par­ents of Joshua Boyle.

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