A look at the fam­ily res­cued from Tal­iban-linked cap­tors

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FEATURES & ANALYSIS -

Af­ter be­ing held for over five years by a group with ties to the Tal­iban, an Amer­i­can woman, her Cana­dian hus­band and their three young chil­dren have been res­cued.

Cait­lan Cole­man of Ste­wart­stown, Penn­syl­va­nia, and her hus­band, Cana­dian Joshua Boyle, were ab­ducted while trav­el­ing in Afghanistan in 2012. Cole­man gave birth to her three chil­dren while in cap­tiv­ity.

U.S. and Pak­istani of­fi­cials said Thurs­day the fam­ily were res­cued by an “in­tel­li­gence-based op­er­a­tion by Pak­istan troops” af­ter they’d crossed the bor­der from Afghanistan.

Here’s a look at what we know, and what we don’t know, about the cou­ple, their res­cue and what hap­pens next:


Ex­actly why the cou­ple chose to en­ter Afghanistan isn’t clear.

Sarah Flood, a home­town friend of Cole­man’s, told the York Daily Record that Afghanistan wasn’t on the cou­ple’s orig­i­nal itin­er­ary. Jim Cole­man, Cait­lan Cole­man’s fa­ther, told the news­pa­per in 2014 that while they were in cen­tral Asia, the cou­ple met peo­ple who spoke highly of Afghanistan.

A fel­low trav­eler who met the cou­ple in a hos­tel in Kyr­gyzs­tan wrote on his blog that Boyle had been talk­ing up the idea of trav­el­ing to Afghanistan, say­ing it was a place for true ex­plor­ers and the win­dow to visit was clos­ing since it would only get less se­cure once U.S. forces with­drew.


Mem­bers of the Tal­iban-linked Haqqani net­work, a U.S.-des­ig­nated ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion, kid­napped the cou­ple near Kabul.

The net­work is be­lieved to com­mand thou­sands of fight­ers.

Both U.S and Afghan in­tel­li­gence agen­cies say Pak­istan’s in­tel­li­gence net­work has al­lowed the Haqqa­nis to live freely for decades in Pak­istan’s tribal re­gions, a claim Is­lam­abad de­nies.

The net­work was founded by Jalalud­din Haqqani, a one­time ally of the United States who achieved fame fight­ing the Sovi­ets in Afghanistan in the 1980s and who de­vel­oped close ties to the slain Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. Af­ter his death, his son Si­ra­jud­din Haqqani took over.

The el­der Haqqani aligned his group with the Tal­iban af­ter the in­sur­gents were driven from power in the U.S.-led in­va­sion that fol­lowed the Sept. 11, 2001 at­tacks.


Pak­istani com­man­dos car­ried out a raid when the fam­ily and their cap­tors crossed the bor­der from Afghanistan into Pak­istan.

The Toronto Star re­ported that Boyle told his par­ents that he was in the trunk of the kid­nap­pers’ car with his wife and chil­dren, when the Pak­istani forces res­cued them. The pa­per re­ported there was a shootout and Boyle said the last words he heard from the kid­nap­pers were, “kill the hostages.”

Cole­man’s fa­ther Jim told ABC News he was tipped off Wed­nes­day that good news would be com­ing about his daugh­ter and she was in safe hands.

No ran­som was paid, ac­cord­ing to a Cana­dian of­fi­cial.

The fam­ily was flown by he­li­copter to the U.S. Em­bassy in Is­lam­abad, Pak­istan.


Caitlin Cole­man grew up a de­vout Catholic in tiny Ste­wart­stown, Penn­syl­va­nia. Joshua Boyle at­tended a Men­non­ite school in Canada. The two, de­scribed as wellmean­ing but naive ad­ven­tur­ers, were in­tro­duced by a friend and started their re­la­tion­ship on­line.

Boyle was once mar­ried to Zaynab Khadr, the older sis­ter of for­mer Guan­tanamo Bay de­tainee Omar Khadr and the daugh­ter of a late se­nior Al-Qaeda fi­nancier.

Her fa­ther, Ahmed Said Khadr, and the fam­ily stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy. Khadr’s Egyp­tian-born fa­ther was killed in 2003 when a Pak­istani mil­i­tary he­li­copter shelled the house where he was stay­ing with se­nior Al-Qaeda op­er­a­tives.

The Cana­dian-born Omar Khadr was 15 when he was cap­tured by U.S. troops fol­low­ing a fire­fight at a sus­pected Al-Qaeda com­pound in Afghanistan that re­sulted in the death of an Amer­i­can spe­cial forces medic, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christo­pher Speer.

Khadr, who was sus­pected of throw­ing the grenade that killed Speer, was taken to Guan­tanamo and ul­ti­mately charged with war crimes by a mil­i­tary com­mis­sion. He pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges that in­cluded mur­der and was sen­tenced to eight years plus the time he had al­ready spent in cus­tody.

The Tal­iban posted this im­age of the fam­ily on so­cial me­dia on Dec. 19, 2016.

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