Khawaja Dawood/The Santiago Times Staff
ISLAMABAD – A U.S.-Canadian family rescued in a dramatic late night ambush by Pakistan Army in a northwestern tribal region near the Afghan border left the country on Friday.
Canadian national Joshua Boyle, 33, and his American wife Caitlan Coleman, 31, were kidnapped by Taliban terrorists while backpacking in Afghanistan in 2012. The couple had three children during their five-year captivity in the war-torn country.
Pakistan Army announced on Thursday the hostages had been “recovered… from terrorist custody through an intelligence-based operation by Pakistani troops.”
Major General Asif Ghafoor, the spokesman for Pakistan’s Armed Forces, said of the mission: “We sent our troops, traced the vehicle on the basis of intelligence sharing by 1900 hours yesterday (Wednesday) and recovered the hostages.”
Ghafoor said they planned to intercept the vehicle at a security checkpoint in Kurram but that the terrorists drove it off the road. They then tried to force it to stop by following it in their own vehicles for a few miles. When they refused, Pakistani troops shot out the tires.
Residents in Kurram said they had seen drones flying above them for days before the rescue.
Reports of whether the captors survived are conflicting. Boyle said they were gunned down after saying ‘kill the hostages’.
U.S. intelligence services had been tracking the movement of the hostages and informed their Pakistani partners when the hostages were moved across the Pak-Afghan border into Kurram Agency on October 11, 2017.
The hostages, according to Pakistan’s military, were taken on Wednesday to the Kurram Agency tribal region, one of the seven semi-autonomous tribal areas in Pakistan along the Afghan border.
I want to Thank Pakistani “Government” & Pakistan
US President Donald trump. pic.twitter.com/isuMWNqLu9
— Ali Axhar 📎 (@ali_axhar) October 13, 2017
On Friday, the family boarded Pakistan International Airlines flight PK785 via UK to Canada from Islamabad. After being released from five-year long captivity, they had earlier refused to immediately board a US-bound jet over concerns about the husband’s past links to a former Guantanamo Bay inmate.
According to U.S. media, Boyle might face questioning in the United States for allegedly having contacts with Canadian Omar Khadr.
In 2009, Boyle was briefly married to Zaynab Khadr, the sister of Khadr, who spent a decade at Guantanamo.
Parents of Canadian citizen Joshua Boyle thanking Pakistan Army for rescue of their son & his family. pic.twitter.com/0rXiGGkvcj
— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) October 12, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump has thanked Pakistan for carrying out the successful rescue operation to recover the hostages.
In statement on Thursday, Trump said: “Yesterday, the US Government working in conjunction with the Government of Pakistan, secured the release of the Boyle-Coleman family from captivity in Pakistan. Today they are free. This is a positive moment for our country’s relationship with Pakistan.
— CityNews Toronto (@CityNews) October 12, 2017
“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. We hope to see this type of cooperation and teamwork in helping secure the release of remaining hostages and in our future joint counterterrorism operations.”