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  • Associated Pressd In this image from video released by Taliban Media in December 2016, American Caitlan Coleman is joined by her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle and their two children. The family was rescued from a terrorist network Thursday in Afghanistan.

Friday, October 13, 2017 1:00 am

After five years, family rescued from terrorists

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Five years after they were seized by a terrorist network in the mountains of Afghanistan, an American woman, her Canadian husband and their three children – all born in captivity – are free after a dramatic rescue orchestrated by the U.S. and Pakistani governments, officials said Thursday.

The U.S. said Pakistan accomplished the release of Caitlan Coleman of Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, and her husband, Joshua Boyle, who were abducted and held by the Haqqani network, which has ties to the Taliban and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States.

The operation, which came after years of U.S. pressure on Pakistan for assistance, unfolded quickly and included what some described as a shootout and a dangerous raid. U.S. officials did not confirm the details.

“Today they are free,” President Donald Trump said in a statement, crediting the U.S.-Pakistani partnership for securing the release. Trump later praised Pakistan for its willingness to “do more to provide security in the region.”

The couple were kidnapped in October of 2012 while on a backpacking trip that took them to Russia, the countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and then to Afghanistan. Coleman was several months pregnant at the time, “naive,” but also “adventuresome” with a humanitarian bent, her father James told The Associated Press in 2012.

Boyle and the High Commissioner for Pakistan to Canada described a scene in which gunshots rang out as Boyle, his wife and their children were intercepted by Pakistani forces while being transported in the trunk of their captors' car.

A U.S. military official said a military hostage team flew to Pakistan on Wednesday, prepared to fly the family out. But sometime after daybreak, as the family were walking to the plane, Boyle said he did not want to board.

Another U.S. official said Boyle was nervous about being in “custody” given his family ties. He was once married to Zaynab Khadr, the older sister of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr and the daughter of a senior al-Qaida financier. Her father, the late Ahmed Said Khadr, and the family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy.

Officials had discounted any link between that background and Boyle's capture, with one official describing it in 2014 as a “horrible coincidence.”

Unlike the Islamic State group, the Haqqani group does not typically execute Western hostages, preferring to ransom them for cash.

The Haqqani network had previously demanded the release of Anas Haqqani, a son of the founder of the group, in exchange for turning over the American-Canadian family.