Five years after they were captured by a Taliban-affiliated network, a North American couple has been freed, along with the three children they had in captivity. Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle were traveling in Afghanistan in 2012 when they were kidnapped by the Haqqani network, a splinter group of the Taliban.
During their five-year imprisonment, they were moved between three separate prisons. Several times, the couple were seen in videos where they read out the terms under which they would be set free. Coleman gave birth four times while in captivity. While the Haqqani network insists that her fourth birth was a miscarriage, Boyle describes it as a “forced abortion,” and alleges that Coleman was raped by one of the guards.
On October 4th, the family was freed from their four-year imprisonment. Boyle told his parents that the family was rescued from the trunk of their kidnappers’ car by Pakistani military forces. According to Boyle’s report, there was a shootout between the military and their kidnappers that ended with the Haqqani members dead and Boyle with minor shrapnel wounds. The last thing Boyle heard their kidnappers say was “kill the hostages.” Pakistani and American officials have been quoted as saying that some of the kidnappers escaped on foot.
While the U.S. military had a plane ready to fly the family back to America, Boyle refused to get on the plane or allow military doctors to examine his children. Boyle says that he was anxious that he would be questioned for his links to Omar Khadr,
There is still confusion surrounding the family’s release. According to the Pakistani military, they received “actionable intelligence from US authorities” that the couple had been moved over the border into Pakistan, and that they rescued the family in a partnership with the US intelligence department. But Mike Pompeo, head of the CIA, believes that the release was “coordinated” by the Pakistani military, who he accuses of working with the Haqqani group. He points to the timing of the release, right before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was scheduled to visit Islamabad and put pressure on political leaders.
On October 12th, President Trump said that the rescue was a joint effort by American and Pakistani forces, and praised the Pakistani government for “honouring America’s wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region.” This comes after a time of tension between the two countries, where Trump accused Pakistan of “housing the very terrorists we are fighting,” and Pakistan’s foreign minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif asked the U.S. whether they’ve actually achieved anything in Afghanistan.
The freed family is settling into their new life in Canada. While Coleman was admitted to hospital for unspecified conditions on October 16th, she wrote in a letter to the York Daily Record that “the Canadian medical system is doing a pretty good job taking care of me” and she hopes to be discharged “soon.”
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