Caitlan Coleman, an American citizen abducted in Afghanistan with her Canadian husband in 2012, has been freed.
Coleman, Joshua Jones and their three children, all born while in captivity, were being held by the Haqqani terrorist network, which has ties to the Taliban. They have all been released, according to President Donald Trump.
Trump released a statement on Thursday and praised the Pakistani government for helping to facilitate the family’s release.
“This is a positive movement for our country’s relationship with Pakistan,” Trump said. “The Pakistani government’s cooperation is a sign that it is honoring America’s wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Coleman & Boyle Were Captured in 2012 During a Trip to Afghanistan
The Associated Press reported that the couple had been communicating with relatives, but all contact abruptly stopped in October 2012 after Boyle emailed home from an Internet cafe in what he called an “unsafe” part of Afghanistan. The last withdrawal from the couple’s bank account was made on October 9, 2012, in Kabul, according to the AP.
Two months later, an Afghan official said the couple had been abducted in Wardak province, just south of Kabul.
Coleman’s parents released the video above in December 2012, pleading for their daughter’s return and saying that she was in serious need of medical attention because of a liver problem. She was also pregnant with her first child.
The Associated Press published a video of the couple pleading for the U.S. government to rescue them. The video was emailed to Coleman’s father from a person claiming to have ties to the Taliban.
The video includes Boyle asking the American and Canadian governments “do what is necessary to bring our family together to safety and freedom.”
2. The Family Is Being Flown to Canada
The family was not flown immediately back to the United States or Canada because they needed medical care, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said during a briefing with reporters on Thursday.
“We had arrangements to transport them back to the United States or to Canada any way they wanted to go. Medical treatment along the way. A lot of this, of course, would be psychological treatment. They’ve been essentially living in a hole for five years. I mean, that’s the kind of people we’re dealing with over there,” Kelly said.
“Luckily, and thank God that the Pakistani officials have — took them into custody, so to speak, from the forces of evil in that part of the world, and they’re being cared for now as we speak,” he said.
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White declined to comment when asked if the family was still in Pakistan or if there were plans to take them to a U.S. military hospital in Germany.
According to Reuters, the U.S. military was ready to fly the family out of Pakistan but said Boyle refused to board the aircraft.
On Friday, Fox News reported that the family was being flown to Canada.
3. The Couple Was Captured By the Haqqani Network in Afghanistan
The U.S. government said Thursday that Coleman and her husband were held all these years by the Haqqani network, which has ties to both the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorist organizations.
The Haqqani network was formed in Afghanistan in the 1970s and grew its influence during the war with the Soviet Union in the 1980s. By the time the United States military entered Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Haqqani was largely operating in Pakistan, but began fighting U.S. and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan.
Boyle’s ex-wife is the sister of Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen captured by U.S. forces in 2002 when he was only 15 and imprisoned for 10 years at Guantanamo Bay after being involved in a firefight with U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
4. The Couple’s Relatives Described Them as ‘Naive’ Adventure Seekers
Relatives described the couple to the Associated Press as “well-intentioned but naive adventure-seekers.”
The AP reports:
They once spent months traveling through Latin America, where they lived among indigenous Guatemalans and where Boyle grew a long beard that led some children to call him “Santa Claus.” The couple set off again in the summer of 2012 for a journey that took them to Russia, the central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and then to Afghanistan.
Boyle’s dad Patrick, who was a judge in Canada, told the AP the two made a foolish mistake by going into Afghanistan, but that their safety should be treated with the same urgency as that of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured after abandoning his post in Afghanistan in 2009. Bergdahl was released in 2014 in a prisoner swap with the Taliban.
“It would be no more appropriate to have our government turn their backs on their citizens than to turn their backs on those who serve,” Patrick Boyle said at the time.
On Friday, Coleman’s parents spoke to ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Her father said it was “unconscionable” that Boyle allowed his then-pregnant daughter travel to Afghanistan.
5. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Praised Diplomatic Efforts To Secure the Couple’s Release
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said diplomatic efforts were key to securing the family’s release, especially the role that Pakistan played to help broker the deal.
In a statement on Thursday, Tillerson singled out David Hale, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan.
“I applaud the innumerable lines of effort from across the U.S. government. I’m particularly proud of Ambassador Hale and his Mission Islamabad team for their engagement with Pakistan. These efforts reflect the best of what America can accomplish,” Tillerson said.
“The United States also expresses our deep gratitude to the Government of Pakistan and the Pakistani Army for their cooperation. President Trump’s new South Asia strategy recognizes the important role Pakistan needs to play to bring stability and ultimately peace to the region. The United States is hopeful that Pakistan’s actions will further a U.S.-Pakistan relationship marked by growing commitments to counterterrorism operations and stronger ties in all other respects.”
Hale was appointed to his post in 2015 under the Obama administration. He has also served as ambassador to Lebanon and Jordan.
On Friday, President Donald Trump again praised Pakistan for its help in securing the release of the family during a speech at the Value Voters Summit in Washington, D.C.
“Yesterday, things happened with Pakistan, and I have openly said Pakistan took tremendous advantage of our country for many years, but we’re starting to have a real relationship with Pakistan and they’re starting to respect us as a nation again, and so are other nations,” he said. “They’re starting to respect the United States of America again, and I appreciate that. And I want to thank the leaders of Pakistan for what they’ve been doing.”