US-Cana­dian fam­ily still in Pak­istan af­ter res­cue from Tale­ban

They refuse to fly to US due to con­cerns about hus­band’s past links to ex-Guan­tanamo in­mate

The Straits Times - - WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON An Amer­i­canCana­dian fam­ily who spent years in Tale­ban cap­tiv­ity were re­leased fol­low­ing a Pak­istani op­er­a­tion, of­fi­cials said. But they re­fused to im­me­di­ately board a jet bound for the United States over con­cerns about the hus­band’s past links to a for­mer Guan­tanamo Bay in­mate.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Thurs­day hailed the cou­ple’s free­dom af­ter they had been held for five years in the law­less AfghanPak­istan bor­der re­gion by the no­to­ri­ous Haqqani net­work. And he sug­gested the res­cue was the re­sult of his tougher di­plo­matic stance against Pak­istan, which Wash­ing­ton has been pres­sur­ing over its sup­port for some armed Is­lamist groups.

“The Pak­istani gov­ern­ment’s co­op­er­a­tion is a sign that it is hon­our- ing Amer­ica’s wish that it do more to pro­vide se­cu­rity in the re­gion,” Mr Trump told re­porters.

“They worked very hard on this, and I be­lieve they’re start­ing to re­spect the United States again,” he said, adding that “a lot” of other na­tions were also show­ing greater def­er­ence to the US.

Ms Cait­lan Cole­man and Mr Joshua Boyle were kid­napped dur­ing a back­pack­ing trip in Afghanistan in 2012, and had three chil­dren while in cap­tiv­ity.

A US mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said Amer­i­can forces were not in­volved in any res­cue, but that a med­i­cal team had been able to meet the fam­ily and stood ready to fly them home if needed. Another mil­i­tary of­fi­cial told AFP the cou­ple were hes­i­tat­ing to board a US mil­i­tary jet in Pak­istan over the Cana­dian hus­band’s con­cerns he could face Amer­i­can scru­tiny for links to a for­mer Guan­tanamo Bay cap­tive.

In 2009, Mr Boyle was briefly mar­ried to Ms Zaynab Khadr, the sis­ter of Cana­dian-born Omar Khadr who spent a decade at Guan­tanamo.

But the sec­ond US of­fi­cial said Mr Boyle did not risk any US reper­cus­sions. “It is not in our in­ten­tion to do any­thing like that. We are pre­pared to bring them back home.”

Mr Trump iden­ti­fied the cap­tors as the Haqqani group, whose head, Si­ra­jud­din Haqqani, is also the Afghan Tale­ban’s deputy leader. This fac­tion has long been sus­pected of hav­ing links with Pak­istan’s shad­owy mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment.

Pak­istan has been un­der i ncreased pres­sure from Wash­ing­ton to crack down on al­leged mil­i­tant sanc­tu­ar­ies in­side its bor­ders af­ter Mr Trump in a tele­vised ad­dress in Au­gust ac­cused Is­lam­abad of shel­ter­ing “agents of chaos”.

The Haqqani net­work has been ac­cused of mas­ter­mind­ing sev­eral high-pro­file ter­ror­ist at­tacks in the Afghan cap­i­tal, in­clud­ing a mas­sive truck bomb on May 31 that killed some 150 peo­ple. It has also been known to kid­nap West­ern hostages and smug­gle them across the Afghan bor­der into Pak­istan.

The Pak­istani mil­i­tary said the hostages had been “re­cov­ered... from ter­ror­ist cus­tody through an in­tel­li­gence-based op­er­a­tion by Pak­istani troops”. They were found in Kur­ram dis­trict, part of Pak­istan’s semi-au­ton­o­mous tribal belt, where mil­i­tants op­er­ated with im­punity un­til the army in­ten­si­fied an op­er­a­tion there in 2014.

Mr Boyle and Ms Cole­man ap­peared in a hostage video in De­cem­ber last year with two of their chil­dren plead­ing for their re­lease.

Canada’s For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land ex­pressed re­lief at the re­lease.

PHOTO: REUTERS

A still im­age from a video posted by the Tale­ban on so­cial me­dia in De­cem­ber last year show­ing Amer­i­can Cait­lan Cole­man, her Cana­dian hus­band Joshua Boyle and two of their chil­dren. The cou­ple were kid­napped in 2012 dur­ing a back­pack­ing trip in Afghanistan and had three chil­dren while in cap­tiv­ity.

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