Pak­istan res­cues Us-cana­dian fam­ily held cap­tive for five years

Cou­ple had three chil­dren while held by group with links to Tale­ban

The Scotsman - - World News - By JILL COLVIN

An Amer­i­can wo­man, her Cana­dian hus­band and their three young chil­dren have been re­leased af­ter years of be­ing held cap­tive by a group with ties to the Tale­ban and called a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion by the United States, Amer­i­can and Pak­istani of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day.

US of­fi­cials said Pak­istan se­cured the re­lease of Cait­lan Cole­man of Penn­syl­va­nia, and her hus­band, Cana­dian Joshua Boyle, who were ab­ducted five years ago while trav­el­ling in Afghanistan and had been held by the Haqqani net­work.

Ms Cole­man was preg­nant when she was cap­tured. The cou­ple had three chil­dren while in cap­tiv­ity, and all have been freed, US of­fi­cials said.

“Yes­ter­day, the United States govern­ment, work­ing in con­junc­tion with the gov­er­nat ment of Pak­istan, se­cured the re­lease of the Boyle-cole­man fam­ily from cap­tiv­ity in Pak­istan,” US pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said in a state­ment. “To­day they are free.”

The Pak­istani mil­i­tary con­firmed the re­lease and said the fam­ily was “be­ing repa­tri­ated to the coun­try of their ori­gin”.

But as of yes­ter­day morn­ing, the fam­ily’s pre­cise where­abouts were un­clear and it was not im­me­di­ately known when they would re­turn to North Amer­ica. The fam­ily was not in US cus­tody, though they were said to be to­gether in a safe lo­ca­tion in Pak­istan, ac­cord­ing to a US na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cial.

US of­fi­cials had planned on mov­ing the fam­ily out of Pak­istan on a trans­port plane, but at the last minute Mr Boyle would not get on, the of­fi­cial said.

An­other US of­fi­cial said Mr Boyle was ner­vous about be­ing in “cus­tody” given his back­ground. Mr Boyle was pre­vi­ously mar­ried to the sis­ter of Omar Khadr, a Cana­dian man who spent ten years at Guan­tanamo Bay af­ter be­ing cap­tured in 2002 in a fire­fight an al-qaeda com­pound in Afghanistan.

Of­fi­cials dis­counted any link between that back­ground and Mr Boyle’s cap­ture, with one of­fi­cial de­scrib­ing it as a “hor­ri­ble co­in­ci­dence”.

The cou­ple has told US of­fi­cials that they wanted to fly com­mer­cially to Canada, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial.

The re­lease came to­gether rapidly. It hap­pened nearly five years to the day since Ms Cole­man and Mr Boyle lost touch with their fam­i­lies while trav­el­ling in a moun­tain­ous re­gion near the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kabul.

The cou­ple 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.

Ms Cole­man’s par­ents last heard from their son-in-law on 8 Oc­to­ber, 2012, from an in­ter­net cafe in what Boyle de­scribed as an “un­safe” part of Afghanistan.

In 2013, the cou­ple ap­peared in two videos ask­ing the US govern­ment to free them from the Tale­ban.

Ms Cole­man’s par­ents, Jim and Lyn Cole­man, told the on­line Circa News ser­vice in July 2016 that they re­ceived a let­ter from their daugh­ter in Novem­ber 2015, in which she wrote that she had given birth to a sec­ond child in cap­tiv­ity. It is un­clear whether they knew she had given birth to a third.

“I pray to hear from you again, to hear how ev­ery­body is do­ing,” the let­ter said.

In that in­ter­view, Mr Cole­man is­sued a plea to top Tale­ban com­man­ders to be “kind and mer­ci­ful” and let the cou­ple go.

“As a man, fa­ther and now grand­fa­ther, I am ask­ing you to show mercy and re­lease my daugh­ter, her hus­band, and our beau­ti­ful grand­chil­dren,” Mr Cole­man said.

“Please grant them an op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue their lives with us, and bring peace to their fam­i­lies.”

The fam­ily was be­ing held by the Haqqani net­work.

US of­fi­cials called the group a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion and have tar­geted its lead­ers with drone strikes.

PIC­TURE: GETTY IM­AGES

0 Pak­istani sol­diers stand­ing guard at a check­point in Afghanistan, where a fam­ily has been freed by the Haqqani net­work

0 Joshua Boyle and Cait­lan Cole­man pic­tured in cap­tiv­ity

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