A kidnapped US-Canadian couple freed in Pakistan this week, nearly five years after being abducted in neighbouring Afghanistan, has returned to Canada, the Canadian government said on Friday.
American Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, were kidnapped while backpacking in Afghanistan in 2012 by the Taliban. They had three children while in captivity.
“Today, we join the Boyle family in rejoicing over the long-awaited return to Canada of their loved ones,” the Canadian government said in a statement.
The family travelled from Pakistan to London and then to Toronto, where they arrived late on Friday, Canadian broadcaster CTV News tweet said.
The final leg of their journey was an Air Canada flight Friday from London to Toronto.
Boyle provided a written statement to the Associated Press on the plane saying his family had “unparalleled resilience and determination.”
AP also reported that Coleman wore a tan-colored headscarf and sat with the two older children in the business class cabin. Boyle sat with their youngest child on his lap. US State Department officials were on the plane with them, AP added.
One of the children was in poor health and had to be force-fed by their Pakistani rescuers, Boyle told AP.
They are expected to travel to Boyle´s family home in Smiths Falls, 80 km (50 miles) southwest of Ottawa, to be reunited with his parents.
Canada has been actively engaged with Boyle´s case at all levels and will continue to support the family, the government added.
“At this time, we ask that the privacy of Mr Boyle’s family be respected,” it said.
Media reported that Boyle´s parents, Patrick and Linda Boyle, had acquired car-seats to help bring home the three grandchildren they have never met.
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.
Boyle had once been married to the sister of an inmate at the US military detention center 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, who was pregnant at the time, had been backpacking in such a dangerous region.
Boyle´s family spent five years fighting to keep the case in the media spotlight in Canada, sharing the few “proof of life” videos or letters they received over the years. In 2016, a video released by an affiliate of the Afghan Taliban and later posted to YouTube showed for the first time the two sons of Boyle and Coleman.
In the video, Coleman begs for an end to their “Kafkaesque nightmare” and is critical of both the American and Canadian governments and the family´s Haqqani captors.
Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Aizaz Chaudhry welcomed the successful rescue of the US-Canadian couple and their children from Taliban captivity, saying it was a lesson that “cooperation, and not blame game, is key to eradicating terrorism.”
Speaking at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, Ambassador Chaudhry said that Pakistan’s security forces acted within hours on the basis of actionable US intelligence.
He also extended warm felicitations to the rescued couple’s family in the United States and Canada.
“No one should have to experience the pain and anguish that Ms. Coleman and her family had been put through in the past years. I am delighted that their ordeal is finally over,” he added.