An American woman, her Canadian husband and the three children they had in captivity have been released after years held hostage by a Taliban-linked terrorist network.
Caitlan Coleman, 32, was given back to US commandos along with her husband Joshua Boyle, 34, and their three young children in a secretive exchange that was facilitated by Pakistani officials late on Wednesday night.
The woman and her husband were abducted five years ago by the Haqqani network as they traveled through Afghanistan.
Caitlan, who grew up in Pennsylvania, was pregnant at the time. In the five years that she has been held captive, she has had more than three children – some of whom died.
The couple were last seen in a video that was sent to their families last year. They appeared with two of their young children in the disturbing footage.
Caitlan Coleman, her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle and their three young children who were born in captivity, were released by their Taliban-linked captors on Wednesday night. They are seen above in a video that was filmed last year with two of their children. Officials say they have a third
The couple (shown above before they were captured) were traveling in Afghanistan when they were taken
It showed Coleman dressed in a headscarf sitting next to her husband and their children who were seen for the first time. The youngest, whose age is not known, had a pacifier in his mouth.
Since then, they are understood to have had a third child whose sex, name or age is unknown.
In previous videos, she referred to other children who she has had to mourn and suggested that she was raped by her captors.
‘My children have seen their mother defiled,’ she said bluntly in one.
Their captors never requested a ransom. Instead, their capture is believed to have been part of an attempt by terrorists to see their jailed comrades in the US released.
Details of where the exchange took place or the circumstances which prompted it have not been confirmed but Pakistan’s involvement suggests it was instrumental in facilitating it.
The US had criticized the country in the past for not doing enough to crack down on the Haqqanis and President Trump’s administration has cranked up the pressure on its government to do more.
On Wednesday, Trump alluded to the successful release of the family and improved relations between the US and Pakistan during a speech in Coleman’s home state.
2013: In one of their first videos in captivity, the pair look forlorn as they address the camera. Joshua was drastically thinner than he had been when they were captured and he had a long, unkempt beard
2013: In another video that they said was taken in 2013, Joshua has been allowed to trim his beard and appears to have put on weight while Caitlan remains gaunt
By 2016, Caitlan had given birth to at least three children, according to officials. Joshua had been allowed to wear western clothes and was more closely shaven
‘Something happened today, where a country that totally disrespected us called with some very, very important news.
‘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,’ he said cryptically.
In 2014, Coleman pleaded with President Barack Obama to bring her and her husband home.
At the time, she made reference to their one child.
‘I am prisoner of the Taliban. I would ask that my family and my government do everything that they can to bring my husband, child and I to safety and freedom,’ she said in the other recording, talking into a wobbly camera.
When they were abducted, the pair’s families said they were innocent but naive adventure seekers who had traveled through dangerous areas in the past
Caitlan, who grew up in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, was allowed to write letters to her family
Joshua appeared gaunt and drastically thinner than he had been when the pair were taken. He also appeared to have grown a long, unkempt beard.
At the time, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had just been released after five years in captivity.
Coleman’s family hoped at the time that Caitlan and Joshua would be released as part of the same deal.
The families made several pleading videos which they hoped would encourage their release. In one, Boyle’s mother appeared wearing a headscarf in an effort to win over their captors.
They have spoken in other interviews about receiving letters from the pair in which they proudly described their two young sons.
In a piece for The Toronto Star published in June, Joshua’s sister wrote: ‘In one of his letters Josh talks about how he and Caity are educating the boys “as best as the dire circumstances allow.”
‘He goes on to brag about how Primus (who is roughly 4 years old) knows his times tables up to five times five, the taxonomic ranks (species, kingdom, genus, etc.) and even some Latin.’
Primus and Secondus, she said, were the names she and her other siblings had given their nameless nephews.
In this 2014 photograph, Caitlan’s parents Lyn and Jim (right) appear with Patrick and Linda Boyle (left) holding a photograph of the couple
TERROR LINKS OF CAPTIVE COUPLE: Joshua Boyle’s previous marriage to ‘Canada’s first family of terrorism’
Caitlan Coleman isn’t Joshua Boyle’s first wife, in fact, the Canadian son of a judge was previously married to a woman with terror links
Boyle was previously married to Zaynab Khadr – the sister of Canadian Omar Khadr who was held at Guantanamo Bay for war crimes
He was one of the youngest held at the camp after being captured aged just 15
The teen was accused of killing American soldier Sgt Christopher Speer with a hand grenade in Afghanistan in 2002 and planting mines to target US vehicles
In 2010, he pleaded guilty to war crimes and murder in a plea deal which resulted in an eight year sentence
He is serving the remainder of his sentence in a medium security facility in Alberta after being transferred in 2012
His legal appeals continue.
His eldest sister Zaynab was an outspoken campaigner for her brother’s release and Joshua Boyle worked as the family spokesman
According to Canadian reports their father, Ahmed, was a close friend of Osama bin Laden
He died in a fire-fight with Pakistan forces on the Afghan border
It is alleged that bin Laden attended Zaynab’s first marriage in Afghanistan before she divorced and met Boyle
In light of these links, a Conservative politician dubbed them ‘Canada’s first family of terrorism’ and called for their deportation
Boyle and Khadr were married just a year before they split. A year later Boyle married Coleman
A US official told the Associated Press that it was a ‘horrible coincidence’ and said the disappearance of Boyle and Coleman had no link to his previous wife
Joshua Boyle’s father Patrick is a tax lawyer who was appointed to the Federal Court of Canada in 2007 – he is married to Joshua’s mother Linda. They are active in the Catholic church in Ottawa, according to The Star
Joshua studied English at the University of Windsor and journalism at Niagara College