Kid­napped fam­ily re­leased

Cana­dian-Amer­i­can cou­ple and chil­dren held cap­tive by Tal­iban-linked group since 2012

Fort McMurray Today - - NATIONAL NEWS -

A Cana­dian man, his Amer­i­can wife and their three young chil­dren have been re­leased from cap­tiv­ity af­ter be­ing held hostage for years by a net­work with ties to the Tal­iban.

Joshua Boyle and his wife Cait­lan Cole­man were ab­ducted five years ago while trav­el­ling in Afghanistan and were held by the Haqqani net­work, a group U.S. of­fi­cials call a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion. Cole­man was preg­nant when she was cap­tured, and the cou­ple had three chil­dren while in cap­tiv­ity.

Pak­istan se­cured the re­lease of the fam­ily this week, U.S. of­fi­cials said Thurs­day, but it was not im­me­di­ately clear when they would re­turn to North Amer­ica.

Boyle’s par­ents, who live in Smiths Falls, Ont., is­sued a video state­ment re­leased to the Toronto Star say­ing they spoke with their son over the phone early Thurs­day morn­ing.

“That’s the first time in five years we got to hear his voice. It was amaz­ing,” Linda Boyle said. “He told us ... how much his chil­dren were look­ing for­ward to meet­ing their grand­par­ents, and that he’d see me in a cou­ple days.”

Pa­trick Boyle, who said the fam­ily was not yet en route to Canada, thanked those in­volved in the case.

“We’d re­ally like to thank the Amer­i­can and Afghan gov­ern­ments as well as our own Cana­dian team,” he said. “Most im­por­tantly this morn­ing we re­layed to the high com­mis­sioner of Pak­istan here in Canada our pro­found thanks for the coura­geous Pak­istani sol­diers who risked their lives and got all five of ours out in a res­cue.”

For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land said Canada was “greatly re­lieved” that Joshua Boyle and his fam­ily had been re­leased and are safe.

“Joshua, Cait­lan, their chil­dren and the Boyle and Cole­man fam­i­lies have en­dured a hor­ri­ble or­deal over the past five years. We stand ready to sup­port them as they be­gin their heal­ing jour­ney,” she said in a state­ment, while also thank­ing the U.S., Afghan and Pak­istani gov­ern­ments for their ef­forts in the case.

The fam­ily was not in U.S. cus­tody, though they were to­gether in a safe lo­ca­tion in Pak­istan, ac­cord­ing to a U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cial, who wasn’t au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the case pub­licly.

U.S. of­fi­cials had planned on mov­ing the fam­ily out of Pak­istan on a U.S. trans­port plane, but at the last minute Boyle re­fused to board, the of­fi­cial said.

An­other U.S. of­fi­cial said Boyle was ner­vous about be­ing in “cus­tody” given that he was pre­vi­ously mar­ried to the sis­ter of Omar Khadr, who spent 10 years at Guan­tanamo Bay af­ter be­ing cap­tured when he was 15 in a fire­fight at an alQaida com­pound in Afghanistan. Of­fi­cials dis­counted any link between that back­ground and Boyle’s cap­ture.

The cou­ple has told U.S. of­fi­cials that they wanted to fly com­mer­cially to Canada, ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he wasn’t au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly about the sit­u­a­tion.

In Pak­istan, its mil­i­tary said in a state­ment that U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies had been track­ing the hostages and dis­cov­ered they had come into Pak­istan on Oct. 11 through its tribal ar­eas bor­der­ing Afghanistan.

The re­lease, which came to­gether rapidly Wed­nes­day, comes nearly five years to the day since Boyle and Cole­man lost touch with their fam­i­lies while trav­el­ling in a moun­tain­ous re­gion near the Afghan cap­i­tal, Kabul.

The high com­mis­sioner of Pak­istan to Ottawa said he had no de­tails on the op­er­a­tion but said it was clear it had to hap­pen quickly once Pak­istani au­thor­i­ties re­ceived in­tel­li­gence about the Boyle fam­ily’s where­abouts.

“Once we knew they had been moved to Pak­istan we took the ac­tion,” said Tariq Azim Khan.

The cou­ple set off in the sum­mer 2012 for a jour­ney that took them to Rus­sia, the cen­tral Asian coun­tries of Kaza­khstan, Ta­jik­istan and Kyr­gyzs­tan, and then to Afghanistan. Cole­man’s par­ents last heard from their son-in-law on Oct. 8, 2012, from an in­ter­net cafe in what Boyle de­scribed as an “un­safe” part of Afghanistan. The cou­ple ap­peared in a se­ries of videos be­gin­ning in 2013, which were shared on­line.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this im­age from video re­leased by Tal­iban Me­dia in De­cem­ber 2016, Cait­lan Cole­man talks in the video while her Cana­dian hus­band Joshua Boyle holds their two chil­dren. U.S. of­fi­cials said Pak­istan se­cured the re­lease of the cou­ple, who were ab­ducted five years ago while trav­el­ing in Afghanistan and then were held by the Haqqani net­work. Cole­man was preg­nant when she was cap­tured. The cou­ple had three chil­dren while in cap­tiv­ity, and all have been freed, U.S. of­fi­cials said.

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