Cap­tive for 5 years, fam­ily is freed

Cou­ple, 3 kids were held by Tal­iban-al­lied net­work af­ter ab­duc­tion in Afghanistan

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATION & WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON — Five years af­ter be­ing taken hostage in Afghanistan, an Amer­i­can woman and her Cana­dian hus­band are free, along with their three chil­dren, all born in cap­tiv­ity. They were re­leased in a dra­matic con­fronta­tion punc­tu­ated by gun­fire, of­fi­cials said Thurs­day, though the cir­cum­stances were not en­tirely clear.

U.S. of­fi­cials said Pak­istan ac­com­plished the re­lease of Cait­lan Cole­man of Ste­wart­stown, Pa., and her hus­band, Cana­dian Joshua Boyle, who were ab­ducted and held by the Haqqani net­work, which has ties to the Tal­iban and is con­sid­ered a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion by the United States.

Cole­man was preg­nant when ab­ducted and gave birth to her three chil­dren while a cap­tive, of­fi­cials said. The cou­ple were kid­napped in Oc­to­ber 2012 while on a back­pack­ing trip that took them to Rus­sia, Kaza­khstan, Ta­jik­istan and Kyr­gyzs­tan, and then to Afghanistan.

“To­day, they are free,” Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said in a state­ment, cred­it­ing the U.S. gov­ern­ment with se­cur­ing the re­lease “work­ing in con­junc­tion with the gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan.” Trump later praised Pak­istan for its will­ing­ness to “do more to pro­vide se­cu­rity in the re­gion” and said the re­lease sug­gests other “coun­tries are start­ing to re­spect the United States of Amer­ica once again.”

The Pak­istani mil­i­tary said the fam­ily had been freed in “an in­tel­li­gence­based op­er­a­tion by Pak­istan troops” af­ter they’d en­tered from Afghanistan.

Boyle and the high com­mis­sioner for Pak­istan to Canada de­scribed a scene in which gun­shots rang out as Boyle, his wife and their chil­dren were in­ter­cepted by Pak­istani forces while be­ing trans­ported in the trunk of their cap­tors’ car.

Boyle told his par­ents there’d been a shootout and that the last words he’d heard from the kid­nap­pers were, “Kill the hostage.” That was ac­cord­ing to Boyle’s fa­ther, Pa­trick, quoted by The Toronto Star af­ter speak­ing with his son.

Three in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials said the con­fronta­tion hap­pened near a road cross­ing in the Nawa Kili area of the dis­trict of Ko­hat in north­west Pak­istan.

The high com­mis­sioner, Tariq Azim Khan, said, “We know there was a shootout and Pak­istan com­man­dos car­ried out an at­tack and res­cued the hostages.”

The Pak­istani armed forces said early Thurs­day that the fam­ily was “be­ing repa­tri­ated to the coun­try of their ori­gin.” But as of Thurs­day mid­day, the fam­ily’s pre­cise where­abouts were un­clear, and it was not im­me­di­ately known when they would re­turn to North Amer­ica.

A U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said that a mil­i­tary hostage team had flown to Pak­istan on Wed­nes­day, pre­pared to fly the fam­ily out. The team did a pre­lim­i­nary health as­sess­ment of the fam­ily and had a trans­port plane ready to go. But some­time af­ter day­break there, as the fam­ily mem­bers were walk­ing to the plane, Boyle said he did not want to board.

Another U.S. of­fi­cial said Boyle was ner­vous about be­ing in “cus­tody,” given his back­ground.

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-Qaida fi­nancier. Her fa­ther, Ahmed Said Khadr, and the fam­ily stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy.

The Cana­dian-born Omar Khadr was 15 when he was cap­tured by U.S. troops fol­low­ing a fire­fight at a sus­pected al-Qaida com­pound. He was taken to Guan­tanamo and pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges that in­cluded mur­der and was sen­tenced to eight years plus the time he had al­ready spent in cus­tody.

Of­fi­cials had dis­counted any link be­tween that back­ground and Boyle’s cap­ture, with one of­fi­cial de­scrib­ing it in 2014 as a “hor­ri­ble co­in­ci­dence.”

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this im­age re­leased by Tal­iban Me­dia in De­cem­ber, Amer­i­can Cait­lan Cole­man spoke while her Cana­dian hus­band, Joshua Boyle, held two of their chil­dren. U.S. of­fi­cials said Pak­istan se­cured the re­lease of Cole­man and her fam­ily.

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