US family held hostage by Haqqani network for past 5 years now free in Pakistan

Donald Trump hinted at the release in a speech in Pennsylvania 

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Thursday 12 October 2017 13:22
Comments
American-Canadian family held by Taliban-affiliated network speak on video in 2016

Donald Trump has celebrated the release of an American woman and her family, held by a Pakistan-based militant group for five years.

The release of Caitlan Coleman and her family of five reportedly took place after US officials provided recently-acquired intelligence on the family’s location to Pakistan’s government.

Ms Coleman, 32, was seven months pregnant when she and her Canadian husband, Josh Boyle, 34, were abducted. A video of them broadcast recently showed the couple with three smiling children.

“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,” said a statement from the Pakistani military.

Mr Trump hinted of impending news of the family’s release during a speech in Ms Coleman’s home state of Pennsylvania on Wednesday evening.

“Something happened today, where a country that totally disrespected us called with some very, very important news,” Mr Trump said.

More than 80 people killed in a Pakistan terror attack

“And one of my generals came in. They said, ‘You know, I have to tell you, a year ago they would’ve never done that’. It was a great sign of respect.

“You’ll probably be hearing about it over the next few days. But this is a country that did not respect us. This is a country that respects us now. The world is starting to respect us again, believe me.”

On Thursday, Mr Trump praised the news, saying it was “a positive moment” for US-Pakistan relations. “The Pakistani government’s cooperation is a sign that it is honouring America’s wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region,” he said in a White House statement.

The Associated Press said the couple were kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2012 and US intelligence on Wednesday told Pakistan the hostages had been moved over the border into northwestern Pakistan, according to the statement from the Pakistan military. It did not say when the rescue took place.

The Westerners were last seen in a hostage video released in December 2016 pleading for their governments to intervene.

“Please don’t become the next Jimmy Carter,” Ms Coleman says in the video, reading a prepared statement and pleading then President Barack Obama. “Just give the offenders something so they and you can save face so we can leave the region permanently.”

The two vanished after setting off in the summer of 2012 for a journey that took them to Russia, the central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and then to Afghanistan.

The families of Mr Boyle and Ms Coleman campaigned for their release

At the time they were seized, they were reportedly hiking in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province.

Ms Coleman’s parents, Jim and Lyn Coleman, last heard from their son-in-law on October 8 2012 from an internet cafe in what Josh described as an “unsafe” part of Afghanistan.

The announcement of the release comes a month after Mr Trump announced a new strategy to deal with Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying the Taliban and other militant groups would no longer find safe haven in Pakistan.

The Haqqani network is one of the most notorious of many militant groups to operate out of Pakistan’s largely autonomous tribal areas, frequently launching cross-border attacks on American and Afghan troops.

The group was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a former anti-Soviet commander in Afghanistan, who initially pledged allegiance to the Taliban.

The outfit is currently headed by his son, Sirajuddin Haqqani, and has long been accused of having close links to Pakistan’s InterServices Intelligence Agency.

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