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 Ghazni Province of Afghanistan while on a backpacking trip through Central and South Asia. They were held by the Haqqani network until October 2017 when they were rescued by Pakistani forces in Kurram Agency, Pakistan. During their captivity, Coleman gave birth to three children.


Joshua Boyle was born in Breslau, Ontario, to Linda and Patrick J. Boyle.[1] He attended Rockway Mennonite Collegiate in Kitchener, Ontario, and graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2005.[2] Following the September 11 attacks, Boyle became interested in human rights issues and the case of Omar Khadr, a Canadian held in Guantanamo Bay. Boyle believed Khadr was innocent and spent several years acting as the spokesman for the Khadr family.[3] Through his work with Khadr, Boyle met and eventually married Omar's sister Zaynab in 2009,[4] but they divorced in 2010.[1]

Caitlan Coleman was born in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania.[5]

Boyle and Coleman met online as teenagers as mutual fans of the Star Wars franchise and were married in 2011.[4] After their marriage, they spent time travelling in Central America before moving to Perth-Andover, New Brunswick, where Boyle worked as a municipal clerk.[6] In July 2012, the two began travelling through Russia and Central Asia, planning on travelling through the "safe '-stans".[7] For unknown reasons, the couple crossed into Afghanistan in October;[1][4] Boyle has stated it was to help "ordinary villagers"[7], while other accounts indicate a more spontaneous decision.[1]


On October 8, 2012, Boyle sent an email to his parents saying that he and Coleman were in an "unsafe" part of Afghanistan.[7] Soon after, the pair were captured by members of the Haqqani network. Coleman was pregnant at the time of their capture.[8] The first ransom video of the couple was released in early 2013. The Haqqani network demanded the release of prisoners in exchange for the release of Boyle and Coleman.[9] It was also revealed that Coleman had given birth to her child, a boy.[7]

Over the course of their five-year captivity, Coleman gave birth to a girl and a second boy, and suffered a miscarriage of a second girl. Coleman and Boyle claim that the miscarriage was intentionally caused by their captors,[10] but the Taliban claims it occurred naturally.[5] The two would regularly be separated and beaten,[7] and Coleman claims that she was raped.[10] The family would regularly be transported between Afghanistan and Pakistan.[10]


In September 2017, a CIA drone spotted what was believed to be Caitlan Coleman and her children in a militant camp in northwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border. SEAL Team Six was tasked with preparing an extraction, but concerns about the accuracy of the image and the logistics of an assault deterred the Americans from taking action.[11] The information about the family's location was passed to the Pakistani government with a request to oversee a rescue operation.

On October 11, Pakistani troops encountered the vehicle carrying the family in the Kurram Valley, Pakistan, shooting out the tires and rescuing them. The family was being held in the locked trunk. The captors managed to escape,[11] and Boyle was injured by shrapnel.[12] The family was then transported to Islamabad before travelling back to North America via the United Kingdom.[13]


After their rescue, the family stayed with Boyle's parents in Smiths Falls, Ontario, before moving to Ottawa. In December 2017, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the family after Boyle requested a meeting.[5]

Criminal charges[edit]

In January 2018, Boyle was charged with numerous crimes including assault, sexual assault, and unlawful confinement, relating to incidents that allegedly occurred after the family was freed from captivity by Pakistani security forces and returned to Canada in October 2017. There are two alleged victims but their identities are protected by a publication ban. The charges have not been heard in court. In June 2018, Boyle was released on bail under the condition that he wear a GPS monitor and live at his parent's house in Smith's Falls, Ontario.[14]

Coleman attributed Boyle's actions to their captivity, stating, "I can't speak about the specific charges, but I can say that ultimately it is the strain and trauma he was forced to endure for so many years and the effects that that had on his mental state that is most culpable for this."[15]

Child custody battle[edit]

Records of the Ontario Superior Court child custody case, unsealed in early September 2018, indicate that Coleman alleged that Boyle had physically and emotionally abused her during their captivity. According Coleman, Boyle had physically struck her, once breaking a cheekbone, and depicted her as "an enemy in his life," accusing her of betrayal to the guards. Boyle's own affidavit denied the allegations and accused Coleman of child neglect due to mental health issues during the captivity, requiring him to be the primary caregiver. The case is pending, and the allegations have not been heard in court.[16][17]

Since June 23, 2018, Coleman has had temporary sole custody; she relocated to Pennsylvania by mid-summer with the children. Boyle tried to prevent that move, but his request was denied by the court[18] and Justice Tracy Engelking issued a restraining order to prevent him from contacting or approaching Coleman or the children.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d Michelle Shephard (September 16, 2016). "Delivering his own son by flashlight: Kidnapped Canadian's correspondence gives glimpse of life in captivity". Toronto Star.
  2. ^ Mercer, Greg (October 13, 2017). "Freed man was raised in Region". Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  3. ^ Jacquie Miller, Ottawa Citizen (October 12, 2017). "Joshua Boyle: He's perhaps best known for his link to Khadr family". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Michelle Shephard; Jessica McDiarmid (December 31, 2012). "Khadr's Canadian ex-husband and new wife missing in Afghanistan". Toronto Star.
  5. ^ a b c Joanne Laucius (January 3, 2018). "Facts about former Afghanistan hostage Joshua Boyle". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  6. ^ Mercer, Greg (October 18, 2017). "Released from Afghanistan, Joshua Boyle says Breslau was on his mind". Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e Murphy, Jessica (October 21, 2017). "The story behind this couple's kidnapping". BBC News. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  8. ^ Bergen, Peter (June 24, 2015). "How to free American hostages". CNN.
  9. ^ "Canada's forgotten child hostages | Toronto Star". May 16, 2017.
  10. ^ a b c Barker, Memphis (October 25, 2017). "US woman held hostage by Taliban group in Pakistan reveals truth behind her rescue". The Telegraph. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  11. ^ a b Goldman, Adam; Schmitt, Eric (October 17, 2017). "Navy SEALs Were Ready if Pakistan Failed to Free Family Held as Hostages". The New York Times.
  12. ^ Kassam, Ashifa; Janjua, Haroon (October 12, 2017). "Canadian American family rescued after five years as captives in Afghanistan". the Guardian. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  13. ^ Kube, Courtney; Khan, Wajahat S.; Bruton, F. Brinley; Nichols, Hans (October 12, 2017). "U.S. hostage heads to U.K. after husband refuses flight to U.S." NBC News. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  14. ^ "Wife of former hostage Joshua Boyle returns to U.S. with children: report". Ottawa Citizen. Ottawa. 25 July 2018. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  15. ^ Lapin, Tamar (5 September 2018). "ETaliban hostage says husband also abused her in captivity". New York Post. New York. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  16. ^ Duffy, Andrew (4 September 2018). "Ex-hostage American Caitlan Coleman accuses Canadian husband Joshua Boyle of abuse, in court documents". Ottawa Citizen. Ottawa. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  17. ^ "Former hostages Joshua Boyle, Caitlan Colmen in custody battle". Globe and Mail. Toronto. 5 September 2018. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  18. ^ Duffy, Andrew (4 September 2018). "Ex-hostage American Caitlan Coleman accuses Canadian husband Joshua Boyle of abuse, in court documents". Ottawa Citizen. Ottawa. Retrieved 5 September 2018.