‘ Ad­ven­ture- seek­ing’ cou­ple free af­ter be­ing held for years in Afghanistan

Weekend Herald - - WORLD - Mark Scol­foro

Just over five years ago, soon af­ter they wed, Cait­lan Cole­man and Joshua Boyle set off on a jour­ney to ar­eas of the world in­fre­quently trav­elled by West­ern­ers, a trek their par­ents say was in keep­ing with the cou­ple’s ad­ven­ture- seek­ing spirit.

Dur­ing a trip that took them to Afghanistan and neigh­bour­ing coun­tries, Cole­man, a home­schooled de­vout Catholic and Boyle, her Cana­dian hus­band, slept in tents and hos­tels, in­ter­acted with vil­lagers and bought lo­cal goods from ven­dors.

They were sup­posed to re­turn to the US so that Cole­man, then preg­nant, could de­liver her baby. In­stead, they were ab­ducted in Afghanistan and held by the Tal­iban- linked Haqqani net­work, sur­fac­ing pe­ri­od­i­cally over the next five years in video record­ings sent to their loved ones and scrubbed by the FBI for clues.

Yes­ter­day, US and Pak­istani of­fi­cials an­nounced the re­lease of the cou­ple and the three chil­dren they had in cap­tiv­ity, a wel­come de­vel­op­ment in a strange tale that vexed fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors for years and be­came part of the po­lit­i­cal de­bate over the United States Gov­ern­ment’s obli­ga­tion to Amer­i­cans held as hostages over­seas.

As news of the cou­ple’s re­lease de­vel­oped, loved ones of Cole­man gath­ered in the fam­ily home of Ste­wart­stown, Penn­syl­va­nia.

In the sum­mer of 2012, the cou­ple em­barked on a jour­ney that took them to Rus­sia and the cen­tral Asian coun­tries of Kaza­khstan, Ta­jik­istan and Kyr­gyzs­tan and Afghanistan. It was a risky ven­ture for any cou­ple trav­el­ling with­out es­cort, es­pe­cially since Cole­man was preg­nant with their first child.

But their par­ents didn’t find it all that sur­pris­ing.

“They re­ally and truly be­lieved that if peo­ple were loved and treated with re­spect that that would be given back to them in kind,” Linda Boyle, Boyle’s mother, told the As­so­ci­ated Press in a 2014 in­ter­view.

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. Of­fi­cials ear­lier said they had dis­counted any link be­tween that back­ground and Boyle’s cap­ture.

Cole­man’s par­ents have said they last heard from their son- in- law in Oc­to­ber 2012 from an in­ter­net cafe in what Boyle de­scribed as an “un­safe” part of Afghanistan. The cou­ple were ab­ducted shortly there­after.

The only trace of the cou­ple since they van­ished had been in the form of videos re­leased by their cap­tors and fam­ily let­ters. The AP re­ported in June 2014 about the ex­is­tence of videos re­ceived by Cole­man’s fa­ther in which the cou­ple im­plored the US Gov­ern­ment to help free them.

Yes­ter­day a typed no­tice ap­peared on the front door of the Cole­man fam­ily home say­ing the fam­ily ap­pre­ci­ated the “con­cern be­ing ex­pressed at the joy­ful news that Caity, Josh and our grand­chil­dren have been re­leased af­ter five long years of cap­tiv­ity”.

The sign asked that their pri­vacy be re­spected while they “make plans for the fu­ture”.

Pic­ture / AP

Cait­lan Cole­man and Joshua Boyle had their chil­dren while be­ing held cap­tive in Afghanistan.

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