FAM­ILY RES­CUED AF­TER GUNFIGHT WITH TER­ROR­ISTS

Tampa Bay Times - - Front Page -

Af­ter five years of wait­ing, an Amer­i­can woman, her Cana­dian hus­band and their three chil­dren — all born in cap­tiv­ity — have been freed from a ter­ror­ist net­work in Pak­istan.

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.

“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 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 had been a shootout 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.

The Pak­istani mil­i­tary said early Thurs­day 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. The fam­ily was not in U.S. cus­tody, though they were to­gether in a safe, undis­closed lo­ca­tion in Pak­istan, ac­cord­ing to a U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cial, who wasn’t au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the case pub­licly and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

A U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said that a mil­i­tary hostage team had flown to Pak­istan 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.

Sev­eral years ago, Zaynab Khadr and her mother also up­set many Cana­di­ans by ex­press­ing pro-al-Qaida views.

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

The cou­ple has told U.S. of­fi­cials they wanted to fly com­mer­cially to Canada, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he wasn’t au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly about the sit­u­a­tion.

The mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said the fam­ily is still in Pak­istan, and there are on­go­ing dis­cus­sions about how and when they will leave. The of­fi­cial said the U.S. is still pre­pared to fly the fam­ily out of Pak­istan, if that is their choice.

As­so­ci­ated Press

In a 2016 video, Cait­lan Cole­man talks as her Cana­dian hus­band, Joshua Boyle, holds their two chil­dren. U.S. of­fi­cials said Pak­istan se­cured the re­lease of Cole­man of Ste­wart­stown, Pa., and her hus­band, who were ab­ducted five years ago in Afghanistan. Their chil­dren were born in cap­tiv­ity.

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