Family freed after being held by Taliban group
ISLAMABAD — 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.
“Today they are free,” President 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 intelligence-based operation by Pakistan troops” after they’d crossed the border 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 shoot-out and that the last words he’d heard from the kidnappers were, “kill the hostage,” his father, Patrick told The Toronto Star after speaking with his son.
A U.S. military official said that a military hostage team had a transport plane ready to fly the family to the U.S. But 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 Qaeda financier.
But officials had discounted any link between that background and Boyle’s capture, with one official describing it in 2014 as a “horrible coincidence.” Jill Colvin, Lolita C. Baldor and Munir Ahmed are Associated Press writers.
American Caitlan Coleman talks in a video while her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, holds two of their three children. The couple was abducted in 2012 while traveling in Afghanistan.