Cana­dian man and fam­ily res­cued in raid, shootout

Cou­ple had three chil­dren while un­der con­trol of ter­ror­ists

Waterloo Region Record - - FRONT PAGE - The Cana­dian Press

TORONTO — A Cana­dian man, his Amer­i­can wife and their three young chil­dren born dur­ing the cou­ple’s five years in cap­tiv­ity were freed in a dra­matic Pak­istani com­mando raid and shootout, au­thor­i­ties say.

The Pak­istani mil­i­tary said Thurs­day that 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, raised in Bres­lau in Water­loo Re­gion, 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. It was not im­me­di­ately clear when the cou­ple would re­turn to North Amer­ica.

Boyle’s par­ents, who live in Smiths Falls, Ont., is­sued a video state­ment re­leased to the Toronto Star say­ing they spoke with their son over the phone early Thurs­day morn­ing.

“That’s the first time in five years we got to hear his voice. It was amaz­ing,” Linda Boyle said. “He told us ... how much his chil­dren were look­ing for­ward to meet­ing their grand­par­ents, and that he’d see me in a cou­ple days.”

His fa­ther, Pa­trick Boyle, thanked those in­volved in the case.

“We’d re­ally like to thank the Amer­i­can and Afghan gov­ern­ments as well as our own Cana­dian team,” he said.

“Most im­por­tantly this morn­ing we re­layed to the high com­mis­sioner of Pak­istan here in Canada our pro­found thanks for the coura­geous Pak­istani sol­diers who risked their lives and got all five of ours out in a res­cue.”

RCMP of­fi­cers were keep­ing re­porters away from the fam­ily’s home in Smiths Falls, which is near Ottawa.

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

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 café 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.

Cana­dian Joshua Boyle, his Amer­i­can wife Cait­lan Cole­man and their chil­dren are on their way home af­ter five years held hostage.

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