US-Canadian couple, three children freed from terrorist custody in Kohat

• Kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2012, the woman gave birth to the children during captivity
• Operation conducted by Pakistan forces ‘based on actionable intelligence from US authorities’: ISPR

PESHAWAR: Security forces, with the support of US intelligence, freed an American woman, her Canadian husband and their three children from terrorists’ captivity.

The foreigners were recovered from Nawe Kali, a remote area about 15 kilometres southwest of Kohat town, on Wednesday night following a joint operation by security forces and intelligence agencies, officials said.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement that the five foreign hostages had been recovered from terrorists during an operation based on intelligence shared by the United States. “US intelligence agencies had been tracking them and shared their shifting across to Pakistan on Oct 11, 2017, through the Kurram Agency border,” said the statement.

However, sources told Dawn on Thursday that the hostages had been recovered from a settled area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the buzzing unmanned air vehicles had been seen in the skies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and KP for the past 10 days.

American national Caitlan Coleman, 31, and her husband Joshua Boyle, 33, had been in the captivity of terrorists since 2012. They were kept inside Afghanistan. The couple had been kidnapped while travelling in the war-torn country as tourists. The woman was pregnant when kidnapped and gave birth to three children during captivity.

The officials said that one of the kidnappers had been taken into custody while his two accomplices fled after an exchange of fire with the security forces.

They said the vehicle carrying the hostages was intercepted near Kohat amid surveillance of drones in the area.

“One of the hostage-takers was injured in the exchange of fire near the town of Kohat,” said an official on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to talk to the media. The ISPR blamed a “terrorist outfit” for kidnapping, but did not name it in its statement. However, US intelligence officials believed that the Haqqani network was behind it.

Residents in Kohat and adjacent tribal areas said drones had been seen flying over the areas for the past 10 days. They were also flying over Hangu district and Kurram and North Waziristan agencies, according to locals.

This was the deepest ever activity of drones inside Pakistani territory.

Media reported that the drones had appeared in the sky of Kohat on Wednesday that created panic among the residents. Following the movement of drones, Pakistan Air Force planes and helicopter gunships appeared to intercept ‘foreign objects’.

The officials said the vehicle carrying the hostages had entered through the Kurram tribal region and then moved to Kohat district. It was intercepted near Nawe Kali.

Kohat and adjacent districts house a large number of refugees and unregistered Afghan nationals.

“The success [of the operation] underscores the importance of timely intelligence sharing and Pakistan’s continued commitment towards fighting this menace [of terrorism] through cooperation between two forces against a common enemy,” the ISPR statement said.

“The hostages were recovered through an intelligence-based operation by Pakistani troops,” it said, adding that the foreigners had been captured by terrorists in Afghanistan in 2012 and kept as hostages there.

The ISPR said the operation had been conducted by the army “based on actionable intelligence from US authorities”.

A video of the kidnapped couple was also released last year.

Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2017

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