Western family in 'terrorist custody' rescued by Pakistan

ISLAMABAD • The Pakistani military rescued a kidnapped US-Canadian couple and their three children after receiving intelligence from the United States, Pakistan said yesterday - nearly five years after the couple was kidnapped in Afghanistan.

American Caitlan Coleman, her Canadian husband, Mr Joshua Boyle, and the children, born in captivity, were believed to be held by the Taleban-allied Haqqani network, which the US has long accused Pakistan of not doing enough to fight.

The couple were kidnapped while backpacking in Afghanistan in 2012. Ms Coleman was pregnant at the time, and a video released by the Taleban in December showed their two sons born while they were hostages. Yesterday's statement from the Pakistani army was the first mention of a third child.

It was not clear when the video was shot, but it was released after rumours swirled in Kabul that the government was planning to execute Anas Haqqani, son of the Haqqani network's founder, who has been held since 2014.

The Haqqani network has been accused of masterminding several high-profile terrorist attacks in the Afghan capital and has been known to kidnap Western hostages and smuggle them across the border into Pakistan.

The rescue came as Pakistan and the US, uneasy allies in fighting the Taleban and other extremists in the region, are experiencing one of the worst lows in relations.

Pakistan touted the success of the operation as proof of the strength of the alliance. "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 Pakistani army statement said, adding that the family had been released from "terrorist custody".

"We welcome media reports that a family, including US citizens, has been released from captivity," a US embassy spokesman in Islamabad said.

US intelligence agencies had been tracking the hostages and on Wednesday shared that the family had been moved across to Pakistan through the Kurram tribal area border, the army said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2017, with the headline 'Western family in 'terrorist custody' rescued by Pakistan'. Print Edition | Subscribe