Afghan Taliban deny hostage family’s claims of murder, rape
A Taliban spokesman on Sunday denied accusations by a Canadian man that one of his children had been murdered and his wife raped while they were being held captive by militants who kidnapped them in Afghanistan in 2012.
Joshua Boyle and his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, were held by the Haqqani network, a semi-independent wing of the Afghan Taliban, before being rescued by Pakistani troops in northwest Pakistan, near the Afghan border, last week.
Boyle told reporters soon after he, his wife and their three children returned to Canada on Friday that their captors had murdered a fourth child and had raped his wife.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid rejected that as propaganda by the Western governments that helped rescue the family.
“We strongly reject these fake and fabricated allegations of this Canadian family, now in the hands of the enemy,” he said in a statement sent to media.
“Whatever statement the enemy wants to put in their mouth, the family is forced to make it.”
Boyle called on the Taliban to “provide my family with the justice we deserve”.
Mujahid said the couple was intentionally never separated to protect their safety.
He also denied that their child had been murdered, but acknowledged that one child became sick and died.
“We were in remote areas without access to a doctor and medications that led to the loss of the child,” he said.
Three children, all born in captivity, were rescued along with Boyle and Coleman.
The US government says the Haqqani network is “the most lethal and sophisticated insurgent group” in Afghanistan.
Its operational chief, Sirajuiddin Haqqani, was named deputy to the Taliban’s newly appointed leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour in 2015, cementing ties between the groups.
The Haqqanis previously held US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed in a swap for Taliban prisoners in 2014, and are suspected of holding two professors, an American and an Australian, who were kidnapped outside their university in Kabul in 2016.
A senior Afghan government official said American and Afghan special forces launched two unsuccessful raids to try to rescue the professors in Afghanistan, but officials now believe they have been taken to Haqqani hideouts across the border in Pakistan.
On Sunday, a bomb killed four Pakistani soldiers as they searched for the militants linked to the kidnapping. The incident happened near the Kharlachi checkpoint in Kurram district in the restive tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.
“Four security force troops including a captain embraced shahadat (martyrdom) while three others sustained injuries when an improvised explosive device went off,” the military said in a statement.
“The troops were part of a search party for handlers of the rescued foreigners,” it said without offering further details.