Canadian-American family held captive by Taliban-linked group released

The family, with three young children, had been held captive for years

A Canadian man, his American wife and their three young children have been released after being held captive for years by a network with ties to the Taliban, U.S. and Pakistani officials said Thursday.

U.S. officials say Pakistan secured the release of Joshua Boyle and his wife Caitlan Coleman, who were abducted five years ago while travelling in Afghanistan and had been held by the Haqqani network.

Coleman was pregnant when she was captured. The couple had three children while in captivity, and all have been freed, U.S. officials said.

“Yesterday, the United States government, working in conjunction with the Government of Pakistan, secured the release of the Boyle-Coleman family from captivity in Pakistan,” U.S. President Donald Trump said in a statement. “Today they are free.”

Representatives from the Canadian government did not immediately provide comment.

A U.S. national security official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing operation, commended Pakistan for their critical assistance in securing the family’s release — and described the co-operation as an important step in the right direction for U.S.-Pakistani relations. The U.S. has long criticized Pakistan for failing to aggressively go after the Haqqanis, who have been behind many attacks against U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.

In Pakistan, its military said in a statement that U.S. intelligence agencies had been tracking the hostages and discovered they had come into Pakistan on Oct. 11 through its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

“All hostages were recovered safe and sound and are being repatriated to the country of their origin,” the military said.

Three Pakistani military officials, all speaking on condition of anonymity as they weren’t allowed to speak to journalists, also confirmed the hostages’ identities.

The release, which came together rapidly Wednesday, comes nearly five years to the day since Boyle and Coleman lost touch with their families while travelling in a mountainous region near the Afghan capital, Kabul.

The couple set off in the summer 2012 for a journey that took them to Russia, the central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and then to Afghanistan. Coleman’s parents last heard from their son-in-law on Oct. 8, 2012, from an internet cafe in what Boyle described as an “unsafe” part of Afghanistan.

In 2013, the couple appeared in two videos asking the U.S. government to free them.

A video released in August last year showed Coleman and Boyle warning that their captors would kill them and their children unless the government in Kabul ended its execution of Taliban prisoners.

Last December, in a video of the couple and two of their children that was uploaded to YouTube, the pair urged governments on all sides to reach a deal to secure the family’s freedom. Boyle’s parents had said the clip marked the first time they had seen their two grandchildren.

Patrick and Linda Boyle had said it was heartbreaking to watch their grandsons observing their surroundings while listening to their mother describe how they were made to watch her being “defiled.”

“It is an indescribable emotional sense one has watching a grandson making faces at the camera, while hearing our son’s leg chains clanging up and down on the floor as he tries to settle his son,” the Boyles said in a written statement. “It is unbelievable that they have had to shield their sons from their horrible reality for four years.”

The parents said their son told them in a letter that he and his wife tried to protect their children by pretending their signs of captivity are part of a game being played with guards.

In the clip, Coleman said she and her family had been living a “Kafkaesque nightmare” since 2012. The Boyles had said their daughter-in-law could not have used a more accurate term.

Meanwhile, Coleman’s parents, Jim and Lyn Coleman, told the online Circa News service in July 2016 that they received a letter from their daughter in November 2015, in which she wrote that she’d given birth to a second child in captivity. It’s unclear whether they knew she’d had a third.

“I pray to hear from you again, to hear how everybody is doing,” the letter said.

In that interview, Jim Coleman issued a plea to top Taliban commanders to be “kind and merciful” and let the couple go.

“As a man, father and now grandfather, I am asking you to show mercy and release my daughter, her husband, and our beautiful grandchildren,” he said. “Please grant them an opportunity to continue their lives with us, and bring peace to their families.”

U.S. officials call the Haqqani network a terrorist organization and have targeted its leaders with drone strikes. But the group also operates like a criminal network. Unlike the Islamic State group, it does not typically execute Western hostages, preferring to ransom them for cash.

___

Baldor reported from Tampa, Florida, and Colvin from Washington. Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

Jill Colvin, Lolita C. Baldor And Munir Ahmed, The Associated Press

Just Posted

READERS REACT: Pedestrian slapped with jaywalking ticket after being hit in Surrey

Some of our readers were very vocal about the punishment handed out by the Surrey RCMP

Reported pedestrian incident in Surrey bogging down traffic on 152nd Street

A pedestrian accident southbound on 152nd Street near 93rd Avenue is slowing down the commute

Border officers to rally at Peace Arch crossing

‘No desire to inconvenience the public’

Surrey urged to ‘rethink how they donate’ after mess on 135A Street

‘It creates quite a mess and we’re trying to keep that area really clean’ says Surrey Urban Mission director

‘Surrey LRT makes good business sense,’ board of trade CEO insists

‘This is Surrey’s moment to truly consider what it wants to be,’ Huberman writes

VIDEO: Top 4 ‘can’t-miss’ stories from Surrey

Now-Leader reporters Trevor Beggs and Amy Reid break down memorable stories from past few issues

Quarter of students were away sick at Maple Ridge elementary school

Students and teachers at Maple Ridge school away with colds, flu.

Suspect in Revelstoke standoff killed himself: RCMP

Mohammadali Darabi, suspect in the Calgary homicide of his roommate, was stopped in Revelstoke

Clinton visits Vancouver, applauds Trudeau, celebrates Democrats’ win in Alabama

Clinton told crowd she cheered when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed the country’s first gender-balanced cabinet.

VIDEO: Salt Spring Islanders ferry piano to their floating home

Everyone enjoys a little music on the water, but not everyone has a piano on their boat

Frustrated federal workers rally against Phoenix payroll system at B.C. MP’s office

Some employees out tens of thousands of dollars with ‘no end in sight’

Bomb detonated in Kamloops neighbourhood

Kamloops RCMP are investigating after an improvised explosive device was detonated Wednesday morning

No More Shootouts: Strong defence will be Canada’s backbone at world juniors

Head coach doesn’t want a situation where a hot goalie or a lucky bounce can determine a team’s fate

Full Cupboard Holiday Program: Raising food, funds and awareness.

Envision Financial and Langley Advance support area food banks this season

Most Read