Cana­dian-Amer­i­can fam­ily freed from Tal­iban cap­tiv­ity

The Prince George Citizen - - FRONT PAGE -

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, his wife Cait­lan Cole­man and their chil­dren had been freed in “an in­tel­li­gence-based op­er­a­tion” af­ter they’d 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 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.

Canada’s 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, Ont., say their son and his fam­ily want 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 was in a safe place in Pak­istan 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. They’re await­ing con­fir­ma­tion on which flight they’re re­turn­ing on and for us to pick them up.”

The cou­ple told U.S. of­fi­cials that they wanted to fly com­mer­cially to Canada, ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial. Pa­trick Boyle told re­porters.

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 was not in Amer­i­can cus­tody but 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, the sis­ter of Cana­dian Omar Khadr, who spent 10 years at Guan­tanamo Bay af­ter be­ing cap­tured when he was 15 in Afghanistan.

Of­fi­cials dis­counted any link be­tween that back­ground and Boyle’s cap­ture and Free­land stressed that Boyle was not the fo­cus of any in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The re­lease came 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 cou­ple had 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. In one posted last De­cem­ber, the pair urged gov­ern­ments on all sides to reach a deal to se­cure the fam­ily’s free­dom. Boyle’s par­ents had said the clip marked the first time they had seen their two grand­chil­dren.

They have said it was heart­break­ing to watch their grand­chil­dren ob­serv­ing their sur­round­ings while lis­ten­ing to their mother de­scribe how they were made to watch her be­ing “de­filed.”

“It is an in­de­scrib­able emo­tional sense one has watch­ing a grand­son mak­ing faces at the cam­era, while hear­ing our son’s leg chains clang­ing up and down on the floor as he tries to set­tle his son,” the Boyles said in a writ­ten state­ment at the time.

“It is un­be­liev­able that they have had to shield their sons from their hor­ri­ble re­al­ity for four years.”

The par­ents said their son told them in a let­ter that he and his wife tried to pro­tect their chil­dren by pre­tend­ing their signs of cap­tiv­ity are part of a game be­ing played with guards.

In the clip, Cole­man said she and her fam­ily had been liv­ing a “Kafkaesque night­mare” since 2012. The Boyles had said their daugh­ter-in-law could not have used a more ac­cu­rate term.

In com­ment­ing on news of the fam­ily’s re­lease from cap­tiv­ity, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump praised Pak­istan for its will­ing­ness to “do more to pro­vide se­cu­rity in the re­gion.”

— with files from the As­so­ci­ated Press

It is un­be­liev­able that they have had to shield their sons from their hor­ri­ble re­al­ity for four years. — Boyle fam­ily state­ment

TAL­IBAN ME­DIA IM­AGE VIA AP

Cait­lan Cole­man, Joshua Boyle and two of their chil­dren are seen in an im­age re­leased by Tal­iban Me­dia in De­cem­ber 2016. The fam­ily, which had been held cap­tive in Afghanistan for five years, was freed.

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