Abducted family freed after gun battle
Taliban-linked group held Canadian, wife, kids for 5 years
Canadian Joshua Boyle, his American wife Caitlan Coleman and their children are finally free after five years held hostage in Afghanistan by the Talibanlinked Haqqani network.
Boyle called his parents early Thursday morning to tell of their rescue. He also told his father that they’ve had a third baby in custody, a little girl who was born two months ago.
“Josh said he was doing pretty well for someone who has spent the last five years in an underground prison,” Patrick Boyle told Torstar News Service early Thursday.
The young family is in Pakistan and plans were underway midday Thursday to fly them home.
Boyle told his parents that he was in the trunk of the kidnappers’ car with his wife and children when Pakistani forces rescued them. He said his kidnappers were killed in a shootout that left him with minor shrapnel wounds. The last words Boyle said he heard from the kidnappers were, “kill the hostages.”
Other media reports have quoted Pakistani and American officials saying the captors fled on foot.
They are reportedly traumatized by both the violence of the Thursday morning rescue and their long captivity, but healthy and recovering.
Boyle, 34, and Coleman, 31, were kidnapped by the Haqqani network in October 2012. Coleman was five-months pregnant at the time and the couple was backpacking through Central Asia. Their families did not know they had crossed into Afghanistan.
The Haqqani network is a powerful afghan group with a history of taking and holding Western hostages. Their highest profile captive was U.s. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was held for nearly five years before being freed in a prisoner exchange in May 2014.
Coleman gave birth to her first son in custody, followed by a second boy a few years later.
In a letter to his parents from captivity, Boyle described delivering the child in secret, by flashlight. “Ta-da!” he wrote. “The astonished captors were good and brought all our postpartum needs, so he is now fat and healthy, praise God.”
A “proof-of-life” video showed the children alive for the first time last December.
In the video, Coleman appeals to the U.S. and Afghan government, calling their plight “Kafkaesque.”
The couple’s daughter was born this summer.
Pakistan’s government issued a press release Thursday confirming the rescue “through an intelligence-based operation by Pakistan troops and intelligence agencies.”
The statement said that U.S. agencies had been tracking the family and kidnappers as they crossed into the Kurram Agency, an area in Pakistan on the border with Afghanistan, on Wednesday. The rescue was based “on actionable intelligence from U.S. authorities,” the statement said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland expressed relief that the family had been released.
“Canada has been actively engaged with the governments of the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan and we thank them for their efforts, which have resulted in the release of Joshua, Caitlan and their children,” Freeland said in a statement.
this image from a 2013 militant video given to the family shows Canadian Joshua Boyle and his wife, Caitlan Coleman. Coleman Family/the associated Press