Kidnapping of Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman

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In October 2012, Canadian-American couple Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman were kidnapped in Afghanistan while on a backpacking trip through Central and South Asia. Joshua Boyle, a Canadian citizen, and his wife Caitlan Coleman,[1] a U.S. citizen from Stewartstown, Pennsylvania,[2] were held captive by the Taliban from October 2012 to October 2017.[3][1][4][5] Their three children were born in captivity.[5][6]

On October 11, 2017, Pakistani forces located the family in Kurram Agency and rescued them, after receiving intelligence from the U.S. that the hostages were moved over the Afghan border into northwestern Pakistan that same day.[7][8]

Background[edit]

Joshua Boyle is the second of five children of Linda and Patrick Boyle, a federal tax court judge. He attended a Mennonite school and was involved with his mother's "Anglican church and his father’s Catholic faith."[9] He graduated with a B.A. from the University of Waterloo in 2005.[10][11] He is known by his friends as a pacifist.[12] Boyle expressed interest in doing humanitarian work in places known to be dangerous.[13]

Boyle had a long-standing interest in Islamic terrorism, stating in 2009 that "anything related to terrorism on Wikipedia, I wrote, pretty much."[13] He took an interest in the Guantanamo Bay detainee, Omar Khadr, and married Omar's sister Zaynab Khadr in 2009, becoming her third husband. At the time Boyle was believed by co-workers to be, or perhaps converting to become a Muslim, taking prayer breaks at work at appropriate times.[13] Boyle first received press coverage in 2009 after an attack on his father's home. During his marriage to Zaynab, Boyle's parents' Ottawa house was fired upon and ransacked by an intruder but no valuables were taken. Boyle believed it was related to his marriage to "a woman who had ties to Osama bin Laden."[14][10][15]

Boyle and Coleman met online as teenaged Star Wars movie fans and became friends. They married in Costa Rica in 2011 while travelling for six months across Central America.[13][16][17]

Originally from Smiths Falls, Ontario, Joshua Boyle lived in Perth-Andover, New Brunswick, before he and his wife Coleman travelled to Afghanistan.

Taliban captive[edit]

Boyle and Coleman were kidnapped by armed men in October 2012 while traveling through Afghanistan's Wardak province, a Taliban haven 40 km from Kabul.[1][18][19] They had been touring Central Asia for several months and were taken days after entering Afghanistan.[20][21] Boyle last contacted family on October 8, 2012, from an internet cafe in an "unsafe part" of Kabul.[11] Coleman, who was five months pregnant at the time she was kidnapped,[22][23][16] gave birth to a boy in captivity[13] and subsequently had two other children, a boy and a girl.[15][6] They were held by the Haqqani network,[1][24][25] a splinter insurgent group whose leader serves as the deputy head of the Afghan Taliban.[26] His parents said that Afghanistan was not part of the original travel plan.[11] They are civilians with no military or government ties.[27][28][29] After his release he explained that his mission was humanitarian in nature, to help "the most neglected minority group in the world, those ordinary villagers who live deep inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan."[30]

During Boyle's captivity, the U.S. FBI investigators have concluded that the kidnapping of Boyle and his wife was unrelated to his first marriage and have described it as "a horrible coincidence".[31][32][33] The Canadian RCMP agrees with the FBI assessment;[21][34] Boyle and his wife have been described as innocents and "harmless hippies" by a former Canadian senior intelligence officer familiar with the case.[35][36] After Boyle's release, U.S. intelligence publicly admitted that they had long suspected that his visit to Afghanistan included a desire to "link up with Taliban-affiliated militants."[37]

No ransom was demanded of their families. In 2014 their families released two videos received in 2013. In August and December 2016 the captors publicly released two further videos. The August 2016 video includes specific death threats against Boyle, his wife and their children. The December 2016 video included their two young sons for the first time and Boyle's leg chains can be heard as he settles them. These videos make it clear that the captors have made specific demands of governments for the release of this family. In these scripted videos Boyle and Coleman ask the US and Canadian governments to do what is required or demanded. They ask their families to push their governments to do what is demanded without describing what that is. The 2016 videos describe the nature of those demands.[36][35][38][39][40][41][42] [43][44][45][46] The Taliban was said to be seeking an exchange for the release of certain Haqqani Network members imprisoned by Afghanistan,[47][38] including Anas Haqqani.[48][49][50][51][52][53][54][55][56][57][58][59]

Lt. Col Jason Amerine testified in 2015 at Senate congressional hearings that he believed the June 2014 prisoner exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl could have included Boyle, his wife Caitlan and their first son.[60][9][28][3][29][61][62][63] In 2016 an agreement to release Boyle alone was reported, but he is reported to have refused to leave his American wife and children behind.[64] In 2017 the Obama administration was reported to be working hard in its last few weeks to secure the release of American hostages of the Taliban and Haqqani Network, including the Coleman-Boyle family.[47]

Following their rescue, Boyle revealed his captors had murdered his infant daughter "as retaliation for my repeated refusal to accept an offer that the criminal miscreants of the Haqqani Network had made to me" and that his wife had been raped by a guard during captivity.[26] Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid denied the rape and murder but acknowledged one child died due to the lack of adequate healthcare.[65]

While addressing a think tank in Washington, CIA's director Mike Pompeo acknowledged the retrieval of "four US citizens who had been held for five years inside of Pakistan" as a "great outcome", contradicting public reports about the family's captivity in Afghanistan.[66] Afghanistan's defence ministry claimed most foreigners kidnapped inside Afghanistan were "held as hostages in the neighbouring country".[67] The Afghan Taliban's spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid rejected the claims and said the hostages were kept in Afghanistan's Paktia Province, not Pakistan, and that some days prior to their rescue, they had been shifted to Kunar.[67]

Rescue[edit]

On October 11, 2017, Pakistani forces rescued the family,[7] after receiving intelligence from the US that the hostages had been moved over the border from Afghanistan into northwestern Pakistan.[4] Pakistani forces located the kidnappers and killed all five of them during a shootout. Boyle and his family were located in the trunk of a car at the time. Boyle was injured by shrapnel.[7] Boyle's father, Patrick Boyle, confirmed that Boyle, Coleman and their children had been freed.[5] At the time of the family's release, Boyle told his father that Coleman had given birth to a girl two months earlier.[6] Boyle refused to leave Pakistan on an American airplane heading to Bagram Air Base because of his previous ties to the Khadr family,[68] boarding a commercial flight back to Canada instead.[69]

The U.S. government and president Donald Trump expressed their gratitude to Pakistani authorities for the rescue efforts, and signaled the development of a "much better relationship" with Pakistani leaders. Relations between the two countries had recently strained following Trump's new South Asia policy, where he criticized Pakistan's role in the Afghan war and demanded more counter-terrorism efforts.[70]

References[edit]

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  10. ^ a b Michelle Shephard (April 2, 2009). "A break-in, slaying and Khadr marriage mystery". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 2017-09-11. But then another connection came to light. Boyle had recently become the father-in-law of Zaynab Khadr, the outspoken sister of Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr. 
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