Family held by Taliban-linked Haqqani network freed in Pakistan after five years

Family held by Taliban-linked Haqqani network freed in Pakistan after five years

American Caitlan Coleman, 31, and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, 33, and two of their three children appear in a video posted online by the Taliban. 2016. (Screengrab: taliban media/ YouTube)

WASHINGTON – An American woman, her Canadian husband and their children have been released by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network in Pakistan following an operation by Pakistani security forces five years after the couple was taken hostage in Afghanistan.

The Pakistan intelligence agency said in a statement that U.S. intelligence agencies informed them Oct. 11 that the family had been moved across the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan’s Kurram Tribal Agency, southeast of the Afghan capital Kabul. The Pakistan army and intelligence service acted on that intelligence.

“All hostages were recovered safe and sound and are being repatriated to the country of their origin,” the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) said. “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 statement and subsequent press releases from the White House and U.S. State Department did not say whether the hostages were rescued in a raid-like operation or released by the group after negotiations.

The U.S. military publicly expressed as recently as last week that the ISI “has connections with terrorist groups.”

President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cheered their release and the cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistan. They expressed hope that the operation represented part of a growing security cooperation as called for in Trump’s new South Asia strategy.

“This is a positive moment for our country’s relationship with Pakistan,” Trump said in a statement. “The Pakistani government’s cooperation is a sign that it is honoring America’s wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region. We hope to see this type of cooperation and teamwork in helping secure the release of remaining hostages and in our future joint counterterrorism operations.”

Caitlan Coleman, now 31, was seven months pregnant when she and her husband, Josh Boyle, now 34, were abducted in 2012 while backpacking through Wardak province, southwest of Kabul. They had been traveling through Russia and central Asia. Coleman gave birth to two or three children while being held.

Last December, the two adults and two children appeared in a video released by the Haqqani Network. In the video, the couple pleads with the American and Canadian governments to answer the demands of their captors. The couple references the two children in the video as their “surviving children” without explanation.

In December the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, said the Haqqani Network held a total of five American hostages.

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