Pakistan Army rescues Canadian-American family held hostage by Taliban

Published: October 12, 2017
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A still image from a video posted by the Taliban on social media on 19 December 2016 shows American Caitlan Coleman, left, speaking next to her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle and their two sons. PHOTO: REUTERS

A still image from a video posted by the Taliban on social media on 19 December 2016 shows American Caitlan Coleman, left, speaking next to her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle and their two sons. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Army on Thursday said it had rescued an American woman and her Canadian husband along with their three young children, who were held hostage by militants in Afghanistan for five years, in a move hailed by President Donald Trump as a ‘positive moment’ in relations between Islamabad and Washington.

American Caitlan Coleman, her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle and the children born in captivity were believed to be held by the Taliban-allied Haqqani network.

Coleman and Boyle were kidnapped while backpacking in Afghanistan in 2012. Coleman was pregnant at the time, and a video released by the Taliban in December showed their two sons born while they were hostages.

An Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement said that “through an intelligence-based operation”, the army took custody of the hostages. It said the hostages had been recovered in Kurram tribal area that borders Nangarhar and Paktia provinces in Afghanistan.

Islamic State group is gaining foothold in the two militancy-riven Afghan provinces seen as stronghold of the Haqqanis.

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“The success underscores the importance of timely intelligence sharing and Pakistan’s continued commitment towards fighting this menace through cooperation between two forces against a common enemy,” the ISPR statement said.

US intelligence agencies had been tracking the hostages and on Wednesday shared the information that the family had been moved across to Pakistan through Kurram Agency border, said the ISPR. It added the operation by Pakistani forces, based on actionable intelligence from US authorities, was successful.

The ISPR said the five hostages were “safe and sound and are being repatriated to the country of their origin”. It gave no further details about the circumstances surrounding the hostages’ recovery.

But as of Thursday morning, 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 US custody, though they were together in a safe but undisclosed location in Pakistan, according to a US national security official, who was not authorised to discuss the case publicly.

US officials had planned on moving the family out of Pakistan on a US transport plane, but at the last minute Boyle would not get on, the official said.

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Another US official said Boyle was nervous about being in ‘custody’ given his background. Boyle was previously married to the sister of Omar Khadr, a Canadian man who spent 10 years at Guantanamo Bay after being captured in 2002 in a firefight at an al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan.

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

The couple has told US officials that they wanted to fly commercially to Canada, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, a US embassy spokesman said on Thursday evening, “We welcome media reports that a family including US citizens has been released from captivity.”

Boyle and Coleman appeared in a hostage video in December last year, with two of their children, pleading for their release.

The video was released after rumours swirled in Kabul that the government was planning to execute Anas Haqqani, son of the Haqqani network’s founder, who has been held since 2014.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US expresses “deep gratitude” to Pakistan.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the US Aizaz Chaudhry also welcomed the rescue operation for the western couple. “I welcome successful rescue of Ms Caitlan Coleman, a US citizen and her family from terrorists’ captivity.”

“I also wish to extend warm felicitations to Ms Coleman’s family and her loved ones in the United States and Canada,” the ambassador said, adding, “No one should have to experience the pain and anguish that Ms. Coleman and her family had been put through in the past years. I am delighted that their ordeal is finally over.”

The parents of the rescued Canadian citizen Joshua Boyle also thanked the Pakistan Army in a video, which was posted on the DG ISPR’s official Twitter account.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • Billa
    Oct 12, 2017 - 8:18PM

    What about Turkish school principal’s family? When will they recovered?Recommend

  • Ok
    Oct 12, 2017 - 9:12PM

    So their captivity could not have been all that stressful or harsh if the parents were able to continue a conjugal relationship that resulted in the birth of three children.

    Glad they have all been freed, nonetheless.Recommend

  • superNeo
    Oct 12, 2017 - 9:42PM

    US pressure is working !!!!Recommend

  • DK
    Oct 12, 2017 - 10:52PM

    What about Missing persons and family’s of Pakistanis and the son of soils that were sold to US ?Recommend

  • Muhammad
    Oct 13, 2017 - 3:03PM

    @superNeo:
    its not pressure, its actually intelligence sharing. also if u could notice the family was moved recently near Pakistan border, before they were well in Afghanistan; where Indian raw is enjoying terrorist trainings..Recommend

  • illpopo
    Oct 13, 2017 - 5:20PM

    Well done Pak Army, happy to see the release of family, of course this is another episode in one sided love story of PAK with US! My blood started to boil when I thing about thousands of families and innocent kids killed and are being killed by US and allied forces in Iraq, Libya, AFG, PAK and in other Muslim countries by NATO assisted design. A very huge question mark always makes me upset, do they deserve any mercy? Somehow my inner-self always came up with positive reply! Best wishes for the family.Recommend

  • Deewan
    Oct 13, 2017 - 6:07PM

    Well done Pak Army & ISI. Salute for your successfully professional rescue operation Recommend

  • jsm
    Oct 14, 2017 - 10:06AM

    They were kept in Pakistan. The lady was raped in captivity.

    Bravo.Recommend

  • Ok
    Oct 15, 2017 - 10:26AM

    Rest of story has been released. These people have remained strong in the face of BRUTAL treatment. They can now begin the healing process, Lord willing, it will go quickly.Recommend

  • OK
    Oct 15, 2017 - 11:33AM

    @jsm: I am not the only one who thinks something is fishy with this story. However, after reading more on this, there appears to be eyewitnesses to their condition after,being released, which would confirm the reason why the little boy with the soother in his mouth has a nasty rash on his face.

    All this being said, the husband has in the past shown a strong interest in Islamic terrorism. If everything they said they have gone through is true, then HOPEFULLY this will have been a wake up call for the husband. Recommend

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