Afghanistan war

Canadian says child murdered, American wife raped during Afghanistan hostage ordeal

American Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, were kidnapped while backpacking in Afghanistan in 2012 by the Taliban-allied Haqqani network

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 October, 2017, 2:05pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 October, 2017, 8:19pm

Former hostage Joshua Boyle said upon arriving back in Canada that the Haqqani network in Afghanistan had killed his infant daughter and raped his American wife during the years they were held in captivity.

Boyle gave the statement soon after landing in Canada late Friday with his wife, Caitlan Coleman, and three young children.

The couple was rescued Wednesday, five years after they had been abducted by the Taliban-linked extremist network while in Afghanistan as part of a backpacking trip. Coleman was pregnant at the time and had four children in captivity. The birth of the fourth child had not been publicly known before Boyle appeared before journalists at the Toronto airport.

“The stupidity and evil of the Haqqani network’s kidnapping of a pilgrim and his heavily pregnant wife engaged in helping ordinary villagers in Taliban-controlled regions of Afghanistan was eclipsed only by the stupidity and evil of authorising the murder of my infant daughter,” he said.

Boyle said his wife was raped by a guard who was assisted by his superiors. He asked for the Afghan government to bring them to justice.

“God willing, this litany of stupidity will be the epitaph of the Haqqani network,” he said.

He said he was in Afghanistan to help villagers “who live deep inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan where no NGO, no aid worker and no government has ever successfully been able to bring the necessary help.”

Watch: parents express joy over release of hostages

On the plane from London, Boyle provided a written statement saying his family has “unparalleled resilience and determination”.

Coleman, who is from Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, sat in the aisle of the business-class cabin wearing a tan-coloured headscarf.

She nodded wordlessly when she confirmed her identity to a reporter on board the flight. In the two seats next to her were her two elder children. In the seat beyond that was Boyle, with their youngest child in his lap. US State Department officials were on the plane with them.

The handwritten statement that Boyle gave expressed disagreement with US foreign policy.

“God has given me and my family unparalleled resilience and determination, and to allow that to stagnate, to pursue personal pleasure or comfort while there is still deliberate and organised injustice in the world would be a betrayal of all I believe, and tantamount to sacrilege,” he wrote.

He nodded to one of the State Department officials and said, “Their interests are not my interests.”

He added that one of his children was in poor health and had to be force-fed by their Pakistani rescuers.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Nafees Zakaria, said the Pakistani raid that led to the family’s rescue was based on a tip from US intelligence and showed that Pakistan would act against a “common enemy” when Washington shares information.

US officials have long accused Pakistan of ignoring groups like the Haqqani network.

The US considers it a terrorist organisation and has targeted its leaders with drone strikes. But the Haqqani group also operates like a criminal network. Unlike Islamic State, it does not typically execute Western hostages, preferring to ransom them for cash.

The operation appeared to have unfolded quickly and ended with what some described as a dangerous raid, a shoot-out and a captor’s final, terrifying threat to “kill the hostage”.

Boyle told his parents that he, his wife and their children were intercepted by Pakistani forces while being transported in the back or boot of their captors’ car and that some of his captors were killed. He suffered only a shrapnel wound, his family said.

US officials did not confirm those details.

The journey home was complicated by Boyle’s refusal to board a US military aircraft in Pakistan, according to two US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. Boyle instead asked to be flown to Canada.

But Boyle said he never refused to board any mode of transport that would bring him closer to home.

Boyle had once been married to the sister of an inmate at the US military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay. The marriage ended and the inmate was later released to Canada.

The families of the captives have been asked repeatedly why Boyle and Coleman had been backpacking in such a dangerous region. Coleman was pregnant at the time.

US officials have said that several other Americans are being held by militant groups in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

They include Kevin King, 60, a teacher at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul who was abducted in August 2016, and Paul Overby, an author in his 70s who had travelled to the region several times but disappeared in eastern Afghanistan in mid-2014.

Additional reporting by Reuters