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The Journal Gazette

  • FILE - In this June 4, 2014, file photo, from left, Patrick Boyle, Linda Boyle, Lyn Coleman and Jim Coleman hold photo of their kidnapped children, Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman, who were kidnapped by the Taliban in late 2012, Wednesday, June 4, 2014, in Stewartstown, Pa. Pakistan's military says soldiers have recovered five Western hostages held by the Taliban for years. Pakistan's army did not name those held, only saying it worked with U.S. intelligence officials to track down the hostages and free them after discovering they had been brought into Pakistan. (AP Photo/Bill Gorman, File)

  • A Pakistani channel broadcasts a report about western couple, seen at a local electronic shop in Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. An American woman, her Canadian husband and their three young children have been released after years of being held captive by a network with ties to the Taliban, U.S. and Pakistani officials said Thursday. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

  • In this image from video released by Taliban Media in December 2016, Caitlan Coleman talks in the video while her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle holds their two children. U.S. officials said Pakistan secured the release of Coleman of Stewartstown, Pa., and her husband, who were abducted five years ago while traveling in Afghanistan and then were held by the Haqqani network. Coleman was pregnant when she was captured. The couple had three children while in captivity, and all have been freed, U.S. officials said. (Taliban Media via AP)

  • Linda and Patrick Boyle, parents of Joshua Boyle, speak with the media outside their home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. Canadian Joshua Boyle, his American wife Caitlan Coleman, and their three young children have been released after years held captive by a group that has ties to the Taliban and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, U.S. and Pakistani officials said Thursday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)

  • Linda and Patrick Boyle, parents of Joshua Boyle, speak with the media outside their home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. Canadian Joshua Boyle, his American wife Caitlan Coleman, and their three young children have been released after years held captive by a group that has ties to the Taliban and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, U.S. and Pakistani officials said Thursday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)

Thursday, October 12, 2017 10:18 pm

A look at the family rescued from Taliban-linked captors

By The Associated Press

After being held for more than five years by a group with ties to the Taliban, an American woman, her Canadian husband and their three young children have been rescued.

Caitlan Coleman, of Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, and her husband, Joshua Boyle, were abducted while traveling in Afghanistan in 2012. Coleman gave birth to her three children while in captivity.

U.S. and Pakistani officials said Thursday they were rescued by an "intelligence-based operation by Pakistan troops" after they'd crossed the border from Afghanistan.

A look at what we know and what we don't know about the couple, their rescue and what happens next:

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WHY THEY WERE IN AFGHANISTAN?

Exactly why the couple chose to enter Afghanistan is unclear.

Sarah Flood, a hometown friend of Coleman's, told the York Daily Record that Afghanistan wasn't on the couple's original itinerary. Jim Coleman, Caitlan Coleman's father, told the newspaper in 2014 that while they were in central Asia, the couple met people who spoke highly of Afghanistan.

A fellow traveler who met the couple in a hostel in Kyrgyzstan wrote on his blog that Boyle had been talking up the idea of traveling to Afghanistan, saying it was a place for true explorers and the window to visit was closing since it would only get less secure once U.S. forces withdrew.

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WHO WAS HOLDING THEM?

Members of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, kidnapped the couple near Kabul.

The network is believed to command thousands of fighters.

U.S and Afghan intelligence agencies say Pakistan's intelligence network has allowed the Haqqanis to live freely for decades in Pakistan's tribal regions, a claim Islamabad denies.

The network was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a one-time ally of the United States who achieved fame fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s and who developed close ties to the slain al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden. After his death, his son Sirajuddin Haqqani took over.

The elder Haqqani aligned his group with the Taliban after the insurgents were driven from power in the U.S.-led invasion that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

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HOW WERE THEY RELEASED?

Pakistani commandos carried out a raid when the family and their captors crossed the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan.

Boyle described being in the trunk of the kidnappers' car with his wife and children when the Pakistani forces rescued them, said his father, Patrick Boyle. He recounted the captors were killed and the five hostages survived, with him being hurt by shrapnel, the father said.

Coleman's father told ABC News he was tipped off Wednesday that good news would be coming about his daughter and she was in safe hands.

No ransom was paid, according to a Canadian official.

The family was flown by helicopter to the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.

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WHO ARE THEY?

Coleman grew up a devout Catholic in tiny Stewartstown. Boyle attended a Mennonite school in Canada. The two, described as well-meaning but naive adventurers, were introduced by a friend and started their relationship online.

Boyle was once married to Zaynab Khadr, the older sister of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr and the daughter of a late senior al-Qaida financier.

Her father, Ahmed Said Khadr, and the family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy. Khadr's Egyptian-born father was killed in 2003 when a Pakistani military helicopter shelled the house where he was staying with senior al-Qaida operatives.

The Canadian-born Omar Khadr was 15 when he was captured by U.S. troops following a firefight at a suspected al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of an American special forces medic, U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer.

Khadr, who was suspected of throwing the grenade that killed Speer, was taken to Guantanamo and ultimately charged with war crimes by a military commission. He pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges that included murder and was sentenced to eight years plus the time he had already spent in custody.

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WHAT DON'T WE KNOW?

It's unclear why Pakistani forces acted to free the couple and their children. The family's whereabouts were unclear as of Thursday evening, and it was unknown when they would return to North America. The family was not in U.S. custody.

Earlier Thursday, Boyle refused to get on a U.S. transport plane that was prepared to take him and his family out of Pakistan. A U.S. official said Boyle was nervous about being in "custody" given his background.

The family plans on returning to Canada, Boyle's father said.