US-Canadian couple still in Pakistan after release from Taliban

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WASHINGTON (AFP) – An American-Canadian family who spent years in Taliban captivity was released following a Pakistani operation, officials said Thursday, but refused to immediately board a US-bound jet over concerns about the husband s past links to a former Guantanamo Bay inmate.

Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle were kidnapped during a backpacking trip in Afghanistan in 2012, and had three children while in captivity.

A US military official said American forces were not involved in any rescue, but that a medical team had been able to meet the family and stood ready to fly them home if needed.

Another military official told AFP the couple was hesitating to board a US military jet in Pakistan over the Canadian husband s concerns he could face American scrutiny for links to a former Guantanamo captive.

In 2009, Boyle was briefly married to Zaynab Khadr, the sister of Canadian-born Omar Khadr who spent a decade at Guantanamo.

But the official said Boyle did not risk any US repercussions.

“It is not in our intention to do anything like that. We are prepared to bring them back home,” the official said.

The Pakistani military said the hostages had been “recovered… from terrorist custody through an intelligence-based operation by Pakistani troops.”

They were found in Kurram district, part of Pakistan s semi-autonomous tribal belt, where militants such as the Haqqanis operated with impunity until the army intensified an operation there in 2014.

“US intelligence agencies had been tracking them and shared their shifting across to Pakistan on 11 Oct 2017 through Kurram Agency border,” the Pakistani military said.

Kurram borders Nangarhar and Paktia provinces in Afghanistan. Both are riven by militancy, with the Islamic State group gaining a foothold in Nangarhar and Paktia seen as a Haqqani stronghold.

Boyle and Coleman appeared in a hostage video in December last year with two of their children pleading for their release.

The video was released after rumors 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.

Canada s foreign affairs minister, Chrystia Freeland, expressed relief at the release.

“Joshua, Caitlan, their children and the Boyle and Coleman families have endured a horrible ordeal over the past five years,” she said in a statement.

Afghanistan is rife with militants and organized criminal gangs who stage kidnappings for ransom, targeting wealthy Afghans and foreigners, who have been ferried over the border.

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