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Freed Family Tries to Rebuild Life as Dark Details Emerge About Ordeal

15 Oct 2017 9:10 pm
By Paul Vieira 

OTTAWA -- The American-Canadian couple rescued by Pakistani military forces last week has begun to rebuild their family life in a small town southwest of the Canadian capital after five harrowing years in captivity in which they say an infant daughter was killed and her mother raped.

Joshua Boyle, a Canadian, Caitlan Coleman and their three surviving children are at the home of Mr. Boyle's parents in Smiths Falls, Ontario, after landing Friday night in Toronto. The couple was abducted in 2012 while backpacking in Afghanistan and then held by Taliban-linked Haqqani network. They were expecting their first child when they were abducted; they now have three children.

Upon landing, Mr. Boyle made new allegations against his captors. He said the Haqqani network killed his infant daughter, Margaret Boyle, for his refusal to heed unspecified requests, without elaborating. He also said his captors raped his wife. The events happened in 2014, he said. The birth of the fourth child wasn't publicly known until Mr. Boyle revealed it on Friday.

The Taliban on Sunday dismissed Mr. Boyle's allegations. "We strongly deny this false claim of the enemy," said the group's spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid. He said the infant died shortly after birth due to limited medical care in the remote area where the family was located. Mr. Mujahid also denied the rape allegations and said Mr. Boyle was never separated from his wife during their captivity.

According to a statement he issued via email to the Associated Press, Mr. Boyle said the family had "reached the first true 'home' that the children have ever known -- after they spent most of Friday asking if each subsequent airport was our new house hopefully."

He added that medical examinations for each of the family members are in the offing, "and God-willing the healing process -- physically and mentally can begin," the AP reported.

Messages for Mr. Boyle and his parents weren't immediately returned.

Meanwhile, a video credited to the Pakistan defense department emerged over the weekend, featuring Mr. Boyle, his wife and children. In the video, Mr. Boyle praised Pakistani efforts to free his family. He added the car they were traveling in was riddled with bullets, and Pakistani forces protected them during a gunfight with their captors. Pakistani forces said they tracked a vehicle carrying the family when it crossed from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

Ms. Coleman, whose family hails from southeastern Pennsylvania, didn't speak in the video, nor did she appear with Mr. Boyle before reporters on Friday. The circumstances under which the video was made were unclear.

A senior Afghan security official said the claims Mr. Boyle made about Taliban abuses weren't a surprise. "The Taliban behead, torture and rape hostages in their captivity all the time," the official said. "The Taliban have no value for human life or human dignity."

Representatives for Canada's Foreign Ministry didn't respond to a request for comment about Mr. Boyle's allegations. A State Department official declined to comment on Saturday.

On Friday, Mr. Boyle said the couple were in Afghanistan five years ago to help "the most neglected minority group in the world -- those ordinary villagers who live deep inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan where no nongovernment organization, no aid worker and no government has ever successfully been able to bring the necessary help."

Before that, the couple lived in the Canadian province of New Brunswick.

Alex Edwards, who said he has known Mr. Boyle since the early 2000s, described the former hostage as a "dreamer, an idealist and a man of deeply held principles."

Mr. Edwards, who lives west of Ottawa in Carleton Place, Ontario, said Mr. Boyle tended to focus his time on issues of social and international justice. In particular, Mr. Edwards added, Mr. Boyle was drawn to the case of Omar Khadr, the Canadian held at Guantanamo Bay for over a decade after he killed a U.S. Army combat medic during a firefight in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old.

Mr. Boyle later reached out to Mr. Khadr's older sister, and would marry her in 2009. The marriage ended in divorce in 2010.

Write to Paul Vieira at paul.vieira@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 15, 2017 17:10 ET (21:10 GMT)

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