How Pakistani troops rescued a kidnapped American family

  • 14/10/2017
Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle with their children in a recent video released by their captors
Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle with their children in a recent video released by their captors. Photo credit: Supplied

Pakistani troops shot out the tyres of a vehicle carrying a kidnapped US-Canadian couple and their children in a raid that led to the family's release after five years of captivity, a Pakistani security official says.

US drones were hovering near the northwestern Pakistani area where American Caitlan Campbell, her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle and their three children, all born in captivity, were freed, another security official said on Friday.

Ms Campbell and Mr Boyle were held by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network after being kidnapped while backpacking in Afghanistan, and their rescue marked a rare positive note in often-fraught US-Pakistan relations.

The family flew out of Pakistan on Friday, according to a Pakistani airport official who saw them. It was not clear whether they were bound for Canada or the United States.

A senior Pakistani security source on Friday detailed how the family were freed following a car chase in the northwestern tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

He said Pakistani troops and intelligence agents, acting on a US intelligence tip, zeroed in on a vehicle holding the family as they were being moved into Kurram tribal agency near the town of Kohat, about 60km inside Pakistan.

Agents from Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence spy agency and soldiers attempted to intercept the vehicle, but it sped away, according to the security source.

"Our troops fired at the vehicle and burst its tyres," he said.

The kidnappers managed to escape, the security official added, saying the troops wouldn't fire at the fleeing captors for fear of harming the hostages. The army recovered the hostages safely from the car.

The family's rescue has been hailed by US President Donald Trump as a "positive moment" for US-Pakistan relations, which have frayed in recent years amid Washington's assertions that Islamabad has not been doing enough to tackle Haqqani militants who are believed to be on Pakistani soil.

A second Pakistani security official said US drones on Wednesday had been seen circling Kohat, suggesting US co-operation included sophisticated surveillance inside Pakistan.

A Taliban commander in Pakistan with knowledge of the hostage family said US drones flying in the area prompted their captors to move them.

"We took care of this family like our own family members and special guests, but after frequent flying of US drones on Kurram tribal region and its adjoining areas, it was decided to move them to a safer place," said the Taliban official on condition of anonymity.

"They were being shifted to a safer place when captured by the Pakistani forces."