Captors ordered to kill family, Boyle says
Canadian heard chilling words from inside car trunk as Pakistanis came to rescue
A picture is emerging of the rescue mission that has a young North American family on track to return home after five years in captivity in Afghanistan.
Canadian Joshua Boyle, his American wife Caitlan Coleman and their three young children were in the trunk of their captors’ car in Pakistan near the Afghan border when Pakistani troops rescued them.
A gun battle ensued, though details of what exactly happened are not yet clear.
In a morning phone call with his parents, who shared his account with the Star, Boyle said the fight left all five kidnappers dead, while he himself was injured after being struck by shrapnel.
He later told the Star that some of the kidnappers had escaped.
The last words Boyle said he heard from the kidnappers were, “kill the hostages.”
Boyle, 34, and Coleman, 31, were kidnapped by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network in October 2012 while backpacking in Afghanistan’s Wardak province — a Taliban stronghold. Their three children were born in captivity.
Pakistan’s account of the rescue diverges from Boyle’s. The official spokesperson of Pakistan’s armed forces, Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, told the Wall Street Journal that Boyle’s captors fled the scene on foot.
Ghafoor said Pakistani troops tracked the captors’ vehicle as it went off-road in the Kurram Agency region, then shot out its tires. The troops then rescued the captive family from the abandoned vehicle, he said. Ghafoor didn’t immediately respond to the Star’s request for comment.
Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Canada, Tariq Azim Khan, told the CBCthere was a “clash” between the Taliban and the Pakistan troops, which included gunfire. He said he did not know how many were killed.
Official accounts from both countries indicate that U.S. intelligence and Pakistani forces together were instrumental in the family’s rescue.
A news release from Pakistan said the family was rescued by an “operation by Pakistani forces, based on actionable intelligence from U.S. authorities,” that the family and their captors had crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan Wednesday.
The rescue represents rare collaboration between countries whose relationship has been historically tense over the issue of terrorism.
The U.S. has been highly critical of Pakistan for failing to crack down on the Haqqani network, which has a history of kidnapping and holding Westerners.
U.S. President Donald Trump was quick to take credit for the collaboration. In a speech on Wednesday night, he said that “a country that did not respect us . . . respects us now,” an apparent reference to the rescue.
CNN reported that the rescue by Pakistani armed forces came as a “surprise” to the U.S. The Americans had been discussing a U.S.-staged rescue attempt when Pakistani authorities informed them that they’d already taken custody of the family, the network said, citing an unnamed senior U.S. official.
Rescue operations are often dan- gerous for captives.
New America, a U.S. think tank, reported that 20 per cent of hostages were killed in rescue attempts between 2001 and 2016. Outcomes were worse overall for American hostages, the report said. Of all Americans taken captive in that period, 43 per cent died, remained in captivity or were unaccounted for, compared with 19 per cent for Westerners overall.
Plans are underway for the Boyle family’s return to North America. Sources told the Star that the U.S. had offered to transport them on a military flight, but Boyle asked to be brought home by Canadian officials instead. With files from Michelle Shephard
The news of the release of Joshua Boyle, his wife Caitlan Coleman and their three children is broadcast at an electronic shop in Islamabad, Pakistan.