A North American family that had been held hostage by the Afghan Taliban has been freed following an operation in Pakistan, the Pakistani military said Thursday.
“Pak Army recovered 5 Western hostages including 1 Canadian, his US National wife and their three children from terrorist custody” in an operation in Kurram tribal district along the Afghan border, the army said in a statement.
It did not name the family, but Canadian Joshua Boyle and his American wife Caitlan Coleman were kidnapped by the Afghan Taliban during a backpacking trip in Afghanistan 2012, and are believed to have had at least two children while in captivity.
The last known footage of the couple surfaced in December last year when they appeared in video urging their governments to secure their release. They were pictured holding their two young sons, who had been born while they were in captivity.
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 Taliban-allied 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 have been known to kidnap Western hostages and smuggle them across the border into Pakistan.
“We welcome media reports that a family including U.S. citizens has been released from captivity,” a US embassy spokesman in Islamabad told AFP, without confirming the identity of the released hostages.
Afghanistan is rife with militants and organised criminal gangs who stage kidnappings for ransom, often targeting foreigners and wealthy Afghans, who have been ferried over the border into Pakistan’s tribal belt.