US-Cana­dian fam­ily, held cap­tive for 5 years by ter­ror group, freed

The Mercury News Weekend - - NEWS - By Jill Colvin, Rob Gil­lies and Munir Ahmed

WASH­ING­TON » Five years af­ter they were seized by a ter­ror­ist net­work in the moun­tains of Afghanistan, an Amer­i­can wo­man, her Cana­dian hus­band and their chil­dren — all three born in cap­tiv­ity — are free af­ter a dra­matic res­cue or­ches­trated by the U. S. and Pak­istani gov­ern­ments, of­fi­cials said Thurs­day.

The U. S. said Pak­istan ac­com­plished the re­lease of Cait­lan Cole­man of Ste­wart­stown, Penn­syl­va­nia, 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 ter- ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion by the United States. The op­er­a­tion, which came af­ter years of U.S. pres­sure on Pak­istan for as­sis­tance, un­folded quickly in what some said was a shootout and a dan­ger­ous raid. U. S. of­fi­cials did not con­firm the de­tails.

“To­day they are free,” Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said in a state­ment, cred­it­ing the U.S.-Pak­istani part­ner­ship for se­cur­ing the re­lease. Trump later praised Pak­istan for its will­ing­ness to “do­more 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 cou­ple were kid­napped in Oc­to­ber 2012 while on a back­pack trip into Rus­sia, the coun­tries of Kaza­khstan, Ta­jik­istan and Kyr­gyzs­tan, then to Afghanistan. Cole­man was sev­eral months preg­nant at the time, “naive,” but also “ad­ven­ture­some” with a hu­man­i­tar­ian bent, her fa­ther James said in 2012.

The Pak­istani mil­i­tary said Thurs­day the fam­ily was “be­ing repa­tri­ated to the coun­try of their ori­gin.” By evening, it was not known when they would re­turn to North Amer­ica. They were to­gether in a safe, undis­closed site in Pak­istan, said a U. S. na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cial not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the case pub­licly and speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity.

The Pak­istani mil­i­tary said the fam­ily had been freed in “an in­tel­li­gence­based op­er­a­tion by Paki- stan troops” af­ter they’d crossed the border from Afghanistan.

Boyle and the High Com­mis­sioner for Pak­istan to Canada de­scribed a scene with gun­shots ring­ing out as Boyle, his wife and chil­dren were in­ter­cepted by Pak­istani forces while be­ing trans­ported in the trunk of their cap­tors’ car. Boyle told his par­ents there was a shoot- out in which some of his cap­tors were killed.

Boyle was once mar­ried to Zaynab Khadr, the older sis­ter of for­mer Guan­tanamo Bay de­tainee Omar Khadr and the daugh­ter of a se­nior al- Qaida fi­nancier. Her fa­ther, the late Ahmed Said Khadr, and the fam­ily stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy.

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