13 Oct 2017

Taliban hostage family freed by soldiers

8:30 am on 13 October 2017
File video screenshot of Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman while in captivity.

File video screenshot of Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman while in captivity. Photo: BBC / Screenshot

A US-Canadian couple and their three children have been rescued from the Taliban in Pakistan, after being held prisoner for almost five years.

Canadian Joshua Boyle and his US wife Caitlan Coleman were kidnapped while backpacking in Afghanistan in 2012. They had three children while in captivity.

They were rescued after a US tip-off during an operation near the Afghan border, the Pakistan army said.

Pakistan's military said US intelligence agencies had been tracking the family in Afghanistan, and reported that on 11 October they had moved across the border into the Kurram tribal district of Pakistan.

In a statement it said: "The success underscores the importance of timely intelligence sharing and Pakistan's continued commitment towards fighting this menace through co-operation between two forces against a common enemy."

US President Donald Trump said it was a "positive moment" for US-Pakistan ties.

"Ms Coleman gave birth to the couple's three children while they were in captivity," Mr Trump said in a White House statement.

"Today, they are free.

"The Pakistani government's co-operation is a sign that it is honouring America's wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region."

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said her government was "greatly relieved" the family had been released and was safe, and thanked the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"Joshua, Caitlan, their children and the Boyle and Coleman families have endured a horrible ordeal over the past five years. We stand ready to support them as they begin their healing journey," she added.

Videos of the couple have been released by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network during their captivity. The insurgent group has been demanding the release of three of its members imprisoned in Afghanistan.

The latest video, released last December, showed the couple with two young boys. In it, Ms Coleman - who was pregnant when she and Mr Boyle were abducted - begged for an end to what she called their "Kafkaesque nightmare".

The US has accused Pakistan of allowing groups such as the Haqqani network to shelter within its borders, and believes Pakistan's intelligence services have close links to the Taliban and other hostile groups inside Afghanistan.

For its part, Pakistan accuses the US of failing to understand the sacrifices it has made in terms of lives through terrorist attacks on its soil.