An American and her family who have been held prisoner for five years by Taliban-affiliated militants were freed following a Pakistani military operation, U.S. officials said Thursday.
Caitlan Coleman, her Canadian husband and their three young children are in the care of Pakistani authorities, pending transfer to American custody, reports the New York Times.
President Donald Trump applauded the operation, saying that it could be a model for future joint operations between the U.S. and Pakistan to free Taliban-held hostages.
“Yesterday, the United States government, working in conjunction with the Government of Pakistan, secured the release of the Boyle-Coleman family from captivity in Pakistan,” Trump said in a statement. “Today they are free. This is a positive moment for our country’s relationship with Pakistan. The Pakistani government’s cooperation is a sign that it is honoring America’s wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region.”
Pakistani forces carried out the rescue operation after receiving actionable intelligence from U.S. authorities, according to Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations. U.S. intelligence agencies had reportedly been tracking the hostages and shared their location with Pakistani counterparts when they were moved inside Pakistan on Wednesday.
“The operation by Pakistani forces, based on actionable intelligence from US authorities was successful; all hostages were recovered safe and sound and are being repatriated to the country of their origin,” ISPR said in a statement. “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.”
Coleman,32, and her husband Josh Boyle, 34, were captured in October 2012 while hiking in the militant-infested Wardak Province near Kabul. At the time, Coleman was seven months pregnant. She later had two more children while in captivity, complicating an already desperate negotiating situation.
In December 2016, Haqqani network militants released a video of the family in which Coleman described her captivity as “Kafkaesque” and said her children had seen her “defiled” by her captors. In an earlier video made public in August 2016, Coleman urged the U.S. government to “stop this depravity” and warned that the militants “will execute us.”
Previous attempts to free Coleman and family were unsuccessful. The Haqqani network had demanded the release of some its commanders held by the Afghan government in exchange for letting the family go, but negotiations stalled after the U.S. military killed Afghan Taliban leader Akhtar Muhammad Mansour in a drone strike in May 2016.
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