An American woman and a Canadian man who, along with their three young children, were held captive by a Taliban-linked terrorist group in Pakistan for five years were rescued by Pakistani security forces in a bloody shootout that left all five of their captors dead.
Joshua Boyle told his parents that he was being transported to an undisclosed location while stuffed into the trunk of a car along with his wife, Caitlin Coleman, and their three children, when Pakistani security forces engaged the captors, reports The Toronto Star.
The bloody shootout left all five captors dead. Boyle said the last words he heard from his captors before they were killed, were "kill the hostages." Boyle received minor shrapnel wounds from the ordeal, according to The Star.
Coleman and Boyle were first kidnapped by militants associated with the Haqqani network, a criminal organisation with ties to the Taliban in 2012, while backpacking in a remote, mountainous region outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. They were transported to Pakistan by their captors and were held for more than five years. Coleman, who was pregnant when the couple was captured, had three children in captivity.
While US security officials have confirmed that the family is now in a safe location in Pakistan, their exact whereabouts are not specifically clear as the officials couldn't speak about the case publicly, reports The Associated Press.
Officials planned to move the family out of Pakistan on a US transport plane, though Boyle refused to board the plane at the last minute. The officials say Boyle was nervous about boarding the flight and being in US "custody" over concerns about his background.
Boyle was formerly married to Zaynab Khadr, the older sister of Omar Khadr, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, and the son of a prominent Al-Qaeda financier. Omar Khadr -- then only 15 years old -- was captured by US forces following a firefight that left a US Army Sergeant dead in 2002.
The couple told US officials they would prefer to fly commercially to Canada.
The family's endured a horrific ordeal while being held. Boyle's parents said their son told them in a letter that he and his wife have tried to protect the children by pretending their signs of captivity were part of a game being played with guards, reports The Star.
As well, Coleman was forced to deliver a child by flashlight and without proper medical supervision. In a video of the family the Taliban released in 2016, as a proof-of-life, Boyle said his children had seen "their mother defiled" by the captors, reports The Washington Post.
"Today they are free," President Donald Trump said in a statement on Thursday morning, describing it as "a positive moment for our country's relationship with Pakistan."
"The Pakistani government's cooperation is a sign that it is honouring America's wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region," he said. "We hope to see this type of cooperation and teamwork in helping secure the release of remaining hostages and in our future joint counterterrorism operations."
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada was "greatly relieved," that the family was free, and thanked the US, Pakistani, and Afghan governments for their assistance.
The Associated Press contributed reporting