Freed hostage says Taliban faction murdered his baby, raped wife

Smiths Falls (Canada) (AFP) –


Freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle has accused Taliban-linked kidnappers of murdering his baby daughter and raping his wife during his family's years-long captivity in Afghanistan.

Boyle made the chilling accusations in a statement read on arrival in Toronto late Friday, with his American wife Caitlan Coleman, and their three children born in captivity, saying his priority was now to protect his family.

In a message sent later to Canadian media from his parents' hometown of Smith Falls, around 80 km (50 miles) from Ottawa, the 34-year-old said the family had safely arrived in the first real "home" his children had ever known.

Boyle and his wife, who was "heavily pregnant" at the time, were kidnapped by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network in a remote area of Afghanistan in 2012. The family were freed Wednesday by Pakistani troops acting on the basis of US intelligence.

Visibly angry, Boyle told reporters the network had ordered the killing of their baby -- a fourth child, whose existence had not previously been known -- as retaliation for his refusal to accept an offer from them.

"The stupidity and evil of the Haqqani network's kidnapping of a pilgrim and his heavily pregnant wife engaged in helping ordinary villagers in Taliban-controlled regions of Afghanistan was eclipsed only by the stupidity and evil of authorizing the murder of my infant daughter," he said.

Boyle also said his wife had been raped, not by a lone guard but with the aid of the captain of the guard and a Haqqani commander he identified as Abu Hajr.

The Haqqani network, a group that operates in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, is headed by Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also the Afghan Taliban's deputy leader.

The faction has long been suspected of having links with Pakistan's shadowy military establishment.

- A 'secure sanctuary' -

Boyle said both incidents took place in 2014, some two years after they were taken captive.

He said the Taliban had confirmed the crimes took place, in an investigation in 2016, and called on the group's leaders to take action against the "criminal miscreants."

Boyle said his focus was now on rebuilding a life for his wife and children.

"Obviously it will be of incredible importance to my family to build a secure sanctuary to call a home, to focus on edification and to regain some portion of the childhood they have lost," he said.

But questions remain about how Boyle and his pregnant wife found themselves in Taliban-controlled territory, and Coleman's father lashed out at his son-in-law in an interview on ABC.

"Taking your pregnant wife to a very dangerous place, to me, and the kind of person I am, is unconscionable," said Jim Coleman.

Before marrying Coleman, Boyle was briefly married in 2009 to Zaynab Khadr, the sister of Canadian-born Omar Khadr, who was captured in battle as a teenager in Afghanistan in 2002 and held for a decade in the US military at Guantanamo Bay.

Boyle was active in the campaign to win Khadr's release from Guantanamo and his transfer to Canada in 2012 where he was freed on bail in 2015.

On Thursday, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Boyle was not a target of any investigation.

- Family ties -

The Pakistani forces that freed the family said the US intelligence services tipped them off that they had been moved into Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal areas from across the border in Afghanistan.

Residents in the tribal districts of Kurram, where the operation took place, and North Waziristan told AFP they had seen drones flying in the skies above them for several days beforehand.

"We sent our troops, traced the vehicle on the basis of intelligence sharing ... and recovered the hostages," Major General Asif Ghafoor, spokesman for the Pakistani military, said in televised comments.

In a video broadcast by CBC, which said it was shot by the Pakistani military following their release, Boyle claims that the vehicle they were travelling in was "riddled with bullets," and praised the soldiers for shielding his family from the gunfire.

"The criminals who held us, they were not good Muslims," Boyle is shown as saying. "They were not even bad Muslims."

"They were undoubtedly criminals, undoubtedly pagans, they were directed by commanders who were not guided by Islam," he said.

Boyle and his family returned to Toronto from Islamabad by commercial airlines, traveling via London. Boyle denied reports he had refused to be flown home aboard a US military aircraft.

The Canadian government welcomed the family's arrival and has appealed for the family's privacy to be respected.