TORONTO – Former Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle has demanded that his kidnappers be brought to justice for the “murder” of his infant daughter and the rape of his wife while they were in captivity.
A tired-looking Boyle read a brief statement to the media late Friday after arriving in Toronto with his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, and their three young children. The family was freed by Pakistani commandos on Wednesday after they and their captors crossed the border from Afghanistan.
Boyle and Coleman had been kidnapped in Afghanistan in October 2012 while on a backpacking trip. Coleman was pregnant at the time and had four children in captivity. The birth of the fourth child had not been publicly known before Boyle appeared before journalists in Toronto.
With hands trembling as he read his statement, Boyle lambasted the “stupidity and the evil” of his kidnappers, who he said were members of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network, for abducting both him and his pregnant wife during a trip to help villagers in Afghanistan’s Taliban-controlled areas.
He said the Haqqani leadership authorized the murder of his infant daughter in retaliation for his refusal to accept an offer from the kidnappers, but did not elaborate on the offer. He also condemned his kidnappers for engaging in the brutal rape of his wife.
“Not as a lone action by one guard, but assisted by the captain of the guard and supervised by the commandant … of the Haqqani network.” Boyle said.
“God willing, this litany of stupidity will be the epitaph of the Haqqani network.”
Boyle said the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — the name used by the Taliban when they ruled Afghanistan until they were ousted by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001 — should provide his family the justice that they are owed.
“I certainly do not intend to allow a brutal and sacrilegious gang of criminal miscreants to … weaken my family’s commitment to do the right thing no matter the cost.”
Boyle said he and his wife now want to focus on building a new life.
“Obviously it will be of incredible importance to my family that we are able to build a secure sanctuary for our three surviving children, to call a home, to focus on edification and to try to regain some portion of the childhood that they have lost.”
The final leg of the family’s journey to freedom was an Air Canada flight from London to Toronto.
U.S. State Department officials accompanied the Boyle family on the flight home.
Boyle gave The Associated Press a handwritten statement expressing disagreement with U.S. foreign policy.
“God has given me and my family unparalleled resilience and determination, and to allow that to stagnate, to pursue personal pleasure or comfort while there is still deliberate and organized injustice in the world would be a betrayal of all I believe, and tantamount to sacrilege,” he wrote.
He nodded to one of the State Department officials and said, “Their interests are not my interests.”
He added that one of his children was in poor health and had to be force-fed by their Pakistani rescuers.
Coleman, who is from Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, sat in the aisle of the business-class cabin wearing a tan-coloured headscarf.
She nodded wordlessly when she confirmed her identity to a reporter on board the flight. In the two seats next to her were her two elder children. In the seat beyond that was Boyle, with their youngest child in his lap.
The family was escorted off the plane five-to-10 minutes before the other passengers on the flight.
The Canadian government said in a statement that it joined the Boyle family “in rejoicing over the long-awaited return to Canada of their loved ones.”
On Thursday, officials in Pakistan said the family had been rescued in “an intelligence-based operation” after their captors moved them across the border from Afghanistan.
The couple had set off in the summer 2012 on a journey that took them to Russia, the central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and then to Afghanistan.
Their release came nearly five years to the day after Boyle and Coleman lost touch with their families while travelling in a mountainous region near the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Coleman’s parents last heard from their son-in-law on Oct. 8, 2012, from an Internet cafe in what Boyle described as an “unsafe” part of Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Nafees Zakaria, said the Pakistani raid that led to the family’s rescue was based on a tip from U.S. intelligence and shows that Pakistan will act against a “common enemy” when Washington shares information.
U.S. officials have long accused Pakistan of ignoring groups like the Haqqani network. The Americans consider it a terrorist organization and have targeted its leaders with drone strikes.
But the Haqqani group also operates like a criminal network. Unlike the Islamic State group, it does not typically execute Western hostages, preferring to ransom them for cash.
A U.S. national security official, who was not authorized to discuss operational details of the release and spoke only on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. obtained actionable information, passed it to Pakistani government officials, asked them to interdict and recover the hostages — and they did.
Boyle 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.
The Canadian-born Omar Khadr was 15 when he was captured by U.S. troops following a firefight and was taken to the U.S. detention centre at Guantanamo Bay. Officials had discounted any link between that background and Boyle’s capture, with one official describing it in 2014 as a “horrible coincidence.”
The U.S. Justice Department said neither Boyle nor Coleman is wanted for any federal crime.
— With files from The Associated Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly quoted Joshua Boyle as calling on the Afghan government to seek justice. In fact, he is asking the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the former Taliban government, to punish the kidnappers.