U.S. wo­man, fam­ily freed af­ter 5 years

Pak­istani army, tipped off by Wash­ing­ton, res­cues five from a Tal­iban-linked group.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Zul­fiqar Ali and Shashank Ben­gali

PE­SHAWAR, Pak­istan — U.S. and Pak­istani of­fi­cials said Thurs­day that they had res­cued an Amer­i­can wo­man, her Cana­dian hus­band and their three young chil­dren from cap­tiv­ity by a mil­i­tant net­work linked to the Tal­iban.

Pak­istani of­fi­cials said their army and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies con­ducted the res­cue op­er­a­tion based on in­tel­li­gence pro­vided by Amer­i­can au­thor­i­ties, de­liv­er­ing a boost to flag­ging re­la­tions between the United States and Pak­istan.

Of­fi­cials iden­ti­fied the res­cued cou­ple as Cait­lan Cole­man of Ste­wart­stown, Pa., and Joshua Boyle of Canada. They dis­ap­peared five years ago while trav­el­ing in a moun­tain­ous area near Kabul, Afghanistan, dur­ing a back­pack­ing trip through Cen­tral Asia.

Cole­man was preg­nant at the time. The cou­ple had three chil­dren while in cap­tiv­ity.

“All hostages were re­cov­ered safe and sound and are be­ing repa­tri­ated to their coun­try of ori­gin,” the Pak­istani army said in a state­ment.

Pres­i­dent Trump, who has sharply crit­i­cized Pak­istan for fail­ing to crack down on mil­i­tants, of­fered praise for the coun­try’s role.

“They worked hard on this and I be­lieve they’re start­ing to re­spect the United States again,” Trump said at a White House event on health­care, adding, “We hope to see this co­op­er­a­tion and team­work” again in se­cur­ing other hostages and counter-ter­ror­ism op­er­a­tions.

U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies had been track­ing the where­abouts of the hostages and in­formed Pak­istan that they had been brought into the coun­try from Afghanistan via a border cross­ing in the Kur­ram tribal area on Wed­nes­day, Pak­istani of­fi­cials said.

The res­cue took place Wed­nes­day night. Ac­cord­ing to Pak­istani se­cu­rity sources, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss de­tails of the op­er­a­tion, res­cuers lo­cated a ve­hi­cle car­ry­ing the fam­ily south­west of the town of Ko­hat in Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa prov­ince.

The se­cu­rity forces ex­changed gun­fire with the cap­tors, cap­tur­ing one while two oth­ers es­caped, of­fi­cials said.

Res­i­dents in Ko­hat said drones had been hov­er­ing over the town for the last 10 days, a pos­si­ble sign of the in­volve­ment of U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies.

The op­er­a­tion “un­der­scores the im­por­tance of timely in­tel­li­gence shar­ing and Pak­istan’s con­tin­ued com­mit­ment” to fight­ing ter­ror­ism, the Pak­istani army state­ment said.

The Haqqani net­work is a mil­i­tant group aligned with the Tal­iban that has bat­tled the U.S. mil­i­tary in Afghanistan for years and fre­quently tar­gets West­ern­ers. The group held U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl cap­tive for five years be­fore he was re­leased in 2014 as part of a pris­oner swap that saw five Tal­iban de­tainees re­leased from the U.S. mil­i­tary prison at Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba.

Cole­man, Boyle and their chil­dren ap­peared in hostage videos sev­eral times, most re­cently in De­cem­ber, when Cole­man pleaded with Pres­i­dent Obama and in­com­ing Pres­i­dent Trump to free them from “the Kafkaesque night­mare in which we find our­selves.”

The Cana­dian govern­ment said it had been “ac­tively en­gaged” with the U.S., Pak­istan and Afghanistan on the case and ex­pressed re­lief that the fam­ily had been freed.

“Joshua, Cait­lan, their chil­dren and the Boyle and Cole­man fam­i­lies have en­dured a hor­ri­ble or­deal over the past five years,” Cana­dian For­eign Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land said. “We stand ready to sup­port them as they be­gin their heal­ing jour­ney.”

shashank.ben­gali @la­times.com Twit­ter: @SBen­gali Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Ali re­ported from Pe­shawar and Times staff writer Ben­gali from Mum­bai, In­dia. Staff writer Noah Bier­man in Wash­ing­ton and spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Aoun Sahi in Islamabad, Pak­istan, con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Tal­iban Me­dia

CAIT­LAN COLE­MAN gave birth to her chil­dren while she and her hus­band were in cap­tiv­ity. Their res­cue could im­prove ties between Pak­istan and the U.S.

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