‘FREE AT LAST’
Canadian and his family held by Taliban headed home after daring rescue
A Canadian man, his American wife and their three young children born during the couple’s five years in captivity were freed in a Pakistani commando raid and shootout, authorities announced Thursday.
The Pakistani military said Joshua Boyle, wife Caitlan Coleman and their children had been freed in “an intelligence-based operation” after they had crossed the border from Afghanistan, where they had been abducted by a group with ties to the Taliban.
Tariq Azim Khan, the country’s high commissioner to Canada, said that once the military received word of the family’s whereabouts from U.S. intelligence authorities, they acted quickly.
Khan described a dramatic scene in which gunshots rang out as the family was intercepted by Pakistani forces while being transported by their captors in the trunk of a van.
Intelligence officials in Pakistan said the confrontation happened near a road crossing in the Nawa Kili area of the district of Kohat in northwest Pakistan.
“We know there was a shootout and Pakistan commandos carried out an attack and rescued the hostages,” Khan said from London.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who has met with the Boyle family in the past, said they had endured an “absolutely horrible ordeal.”
Freeland refused to describe the circumstances of the release, citing security reasons but said Canada had been working with the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan, whom she thanked.
“We all have to really remember what a traumatic experience this family has gone through — really unspeakable,” Freeland said in Mexico City.
Boyle and Coleman, who was pregnant at the time of the abduction, were held by the Haqqani network, a group U.S. officials call a terrorist organization.
Boyle’s parents, who live in Smiths Falls, said their son and his family intend to come to Canada.
“The family has chosen Canada,” Patrick Boyle said Thursday evening. “We’re hoping to know ourselves when we get to go pick them up.”
The family were safe but exhausted, Patrick Boyle said.
“We just spoke to them again recently,” Boyle said. “He (Joshua) said they’ve all been up since Tuesday, so he was very pleased, he’s running on empty.”
Joshua’s mother Linda had no doubt what the first thing she intended to do when she sees her son and family.
“Hug them, slobber kisses all over them,” she said.
Coleman’s parents, meanwhile, posted a statement on the door of their Pennsylvania home saying they appreciated “all the interest and concern being expressed at the joyful news that Caity, Josh and our grandchildren have been released after five long years of captivity.”
A U.S. national security official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the case publicly, said the family were together in a safe location in Pakistan.
American officials had planned on moving the family out of Pakistan on a U.S. transport plane but 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 Zaynab Khadr, sister of Canadian Omar Khadr, who spent 10 years at Guantanamo Bay after being captured when he was 15 in Afghanistan.
Caitlan Coleman talks in a video released last December while husband Joshua Boyle holds their two children.