N. Amer­i­can fam­ily kid­napped by Afghan Tal­iban freed: Pak­istan Army

Arab News - - INTERNATIONAL -

RAWALPINDI: A North Amer­i­can fam­ily that had been held hostage by the Afghan Tal­iban has been freed fol­low­ing an op­er­a­tion in Pak­istan, the Pak­istani mil­i­tary said Thurs­day.

The hostages are “safe and sound and are be­ing repa­tri­ated to the coun­try of their ori­gin,” the army said in a state­ment, af­ter the res­cue in Kur­ram district, part of the semi-au­ton­o­mous tribal belt along the Afghan border.

“Pak Army re­cov­ered 5 Western hostages in­clud­ing 1 Cana­dian, his US Na­tional wife and their three chil­dren from ter­ror­ist cus­tody,” it said of the op­er­a­tion, which was launched af­ter Pak­istani au­thor­i­ties re­ceived in­tel­li­gence from US of­fi­cials.

It did not name the fam­ily, but Cana­dian Joshua Boyle and his Amer­i­can wife Cait­lan Cole­man were kid­napped by the Afghan Tal­iban dur­ing a back­pack­ing trip in Afghanistan 2012, and are be­lieved to have had at least two chil­dren while in cap­tiv­ity.

Pak­istan of­fi­cials pro­vided no de­tails about the op­er­a­tion.

“We wel­come me­dia re­ports that a fam­ily in­clud­ing US ci­ti­zens has been re­leased from cap­tiv­ity,” a US Em­bassy spokesman in Islamabad told AFP, with­out con­firm­ing the iden­tity of the re­leased hostages.

Pak­istan has been un­der in­creased pres­sure from Wash­ing­ton to crack down on al­leged mil­i­tant sanc­tu­ar­ies in­side its bor­ders af­ter US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump lam­basted the coun­try in a tele­vised ad­dress in Au­gust.

Dur­ing the speech, Trump ac­cused Islamabad of shel­ter­ing “agents of chaos” and sug­gested ties with Pak­istan would be ad­justed im­me­di­ately but of­fered few de­tails.

The last known footage of Joshua Boyle and Cait­lan Cole­man sur­faced in De­cem­ber last year when they ap­peared in video urg­ing their gov­ern­ments to se­cure their re­lease. They were pic­tured hold­ing their two young sons, who had been born while they were in cap­tiv­ity.

It was not clear when the video was shot, but it was re­leased af­ter ru­mors swirled in Kabul that the govern­ment was plan­ning to ex­e­cute Anas Haqqani, son of the Tal­iban-al­lied Haqqani net­work’s founder, who has been held since 2014.

The Haqqani net­work has been ac­cused of mas­ter­mind­ing sev­eral high-pro­file ter­ror­ist at­tacks in the Afghan cap­i­tal and have been known to kid­nap Western hostages and smug­gle them across the border into Pak­istan.

Kur­ram tribal agency bor­ders Nan­garhar and Pak­tia prov­inces in Afghanistan. Both are riven by mil­i­tancy, with the Daesh group gain­ing a foothold in Nan­garhar and Pak­tia seen as a Haqqani strong­hold.

Afghanistan is rife with mil­i­tants and or­ga­nized crim­i­nal gangs who stage kid­nap­pings for ran­som, of­ten tar­get­ing for­eign­ers and wealthy Afghans, who have been fer­ried over the border into Pak­istan’s tribal belt.

The Tal­iban are also be­lieved to be hold­ing Amer­i­can Kevin King and Aus­tralian Ti­mothy Weekes, both pro­fes­sors at the Amer­i­can Univer­sity of Afghanistan, who were dragged from their ve­hi­cles in Kabul by gun­men in Au­gust last year.

US Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions forces con­ducted a se­cret raid au­tho­rized by then-Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to res­cue them, but the hostages were not there, the Pen­tagon said at the time.

They most re­cently ap­peared in a hostage video re­leased in June this year.

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. (AP)

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