An American woman, her Canadian husband and their three young children — who had been held captive since 2012 by the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network — were freed after an operation involving Pakistani forces, officials announced Thursday.
Caitlan Coleman, 32, was seven months pregnant when she and her husband, Josh Boyle, were abducted.
The operation that set Coleman, Boyle and their children free was undertaken by Pakistani forces based on actionable intelligence provided by U.S. authorities, according to a statement by the ISPR. U.S. intelligence agencies had been tracking the hostages and shared the location with Pakistani counterparts when the hostages shifted into Pakistani territory Wednesday.
President Trump appeared to hint at the news of Coleman’s release during a speech in Coleman’s home state of Pennsylvania on Wednesday.
“Something happened today, where a country that totally disrespected us called with some very, very important news,” Trump said. “And one of my generals came in. They said, ‘You know, I have to tell you, a year ago they would’ve never done that.’ It was a great sign of respect. You’ll probably be hearing about it over the next few days. But this is a country that did not respect us. This is a country that respects us now. The world is starting to respect us again, believe me.”
The pair were last seen in a hostage video in December 2016 pleading for their governments to intervene.
The two vanished after setting off in the summer of 2012 for a journey that took them to Russia, the central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and then to Afghanistan.
Coleman’s parents, Jim and Lyn Coleman, last heard from their son-in-law on Oct. 8, 2012, from an internet cafe in what Josh described as an “unsafe” part of Afghanistan.
The announcement of the release comes a month after President Trump announced a new strategy to deal with Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying the Taliban and other militant groups would no longer find safe haven in Pakistan.
Defense Secretary James Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford told Congress last week Pakistan would no longer be a sanctuary for terrorism.
It is not clear how much Pakistan may have aided in the rescue efforts for Coleman and her family.
In the YouTube video, Coleman refers to “the Kafkaesque nightmare in which we find ourselves” and urges “governments on both sides” to reach a deal for their freedom. She then adds: “My children have seen their mother defiled.”
Two young children appear in the video with them, and Coleman has told her family that she gave birth to two children in captivity.
“Please don’t become the next Jimmy Carter,” Coleman says in the video, reading a prepared statement and making a plea to former President Barack Obama. “Just give the offenders something so they and you can save face so we can leave the region permanently.”
The video came to public attention through the Site Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity online. SITE said it was dated Dec. 3.
“We are deeply concerned for the safety and well-being of Joshua Boyle, Caitlan Coleman and their young children and call for their unconditional release,” Canadian Global Affairs spokesman Michael O’Shaughnessy said. The State Department also said at the time that it was reviewing the footage.
The Haqqani network has orchestrated a vast array of brutal attacks in Afghanistan in recent years, against both locals and the U.S. military, but unlike their Taliban associates, they are deemed to be more motivated by money than faith.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.