FAMILY HELD CAPTIVE BY TALIBAN-LINKED GROUP FREED
Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman were abducted five years ago while travelling in Afghanistan and were held by the Haqqani network
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.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada was “greatly relieved” that 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, thanking the U.S., Afghan and Pakistani governments for their efforts in the case.
As of Thursday morning, however, the family’s precise whereabouts were unclear and it was not immediately known when they would return to North America. The family was not in U.S. custody, though they were together in a safe, but undisclosed, 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 would not get on, the official said.
Another U.S. official said Boyle was nervous about being in “custody” given his background. Boyle 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 al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan. Officials discounted any link between that background and Boyle’s capture, with one official describing it as a “horrible coincidence.”
The couple has told U.S. officials that they wanted to fly commercially to Canada, according to the 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 proving that they were alive. In the most recent, posted online 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.
This still image made from a 2013 video released by the Coleman family shows Caitlan Coleman and her husband, Canadian Joshua Boyle in a militant video given to the family. The American woman, her Canadian husband and their three young children have...