In 2012, American Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, set out on a backpacking expedition through Central Asia, headed for Russia, on a route meant to skirt dangerous Afghanistan. Coleman was several months pregnant at the time, but the two were avid travelers confident in their ability to tackle the trip. Somehow, though, the pair ended up near Kabul in the Wardak province. That’s where they were captured by the Taliban, kicking off a long and grueling hostage ordeal. Five years, three children, and three hostage videos later, the family has now been liberated by Pakistani security forces and are headed home.
The rescue comes just ten months since released footage showed the couple pleading with President Obama and President-elect Trump to free them from the ruthless Haqqani Network. Reading from a script, Coleman called their situation “a Kafkaesque nightmare” and begged, “Just give the offenders something so they and you can save face and we can leave the region permanently.” An unknown Taliban official in the video claimed the pair had converted to Islam during their captivity. Coleman told American and Canadian leaders that her “children have seen their mother defiled.”
During the rescue, Pakistani commandos and members of its Inter-Services Intelligence agency swooped in once Haqqani members crossed the border from Afghanistan with Coleman, Boyle, and their children in tow. Initially, the family was taken a secure location until arrangements could be made to get them back to the U.S. An official statement explained that “the operation by Pakistani forces, based on actionable intelligence from US authorities was successful; all hostages were recovered safe and sound and are being repatriated to the country of their origin.”
Coleman’s father had begged his daughter’s captors in a past interview to “please grant them an opportunity to continue their lives with us, and bring peace to their families.” Thankfully, Coleman and Boyle’s families got their wish. But there are still more hostages in Haqqani custody, and hopefully, the Trump administration can keep working with Pakistan to free them, too.