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Bizarre hostage mystery deepens

Afghanistan Couple Rescued
Afghanistan Couple Rescued

A FORMER Taliban hostage said thought it was a joke when he was told Donald Trump was now president of the United States of America.

Canadian Joshua Boyle, 34, and his American wife Caitlin Coleman, 31, were abducted five years ago while "backpacking" in Afghanistan.

Ms Coleman was pregnant at the time, and the couple went on to have three more children while they were held captive by the Haqqani network.

They were rarely given any information about the outside world.

However, one titbit fell through the cracks when they were forced to participate in a proof-of-life video prior to their release.

One of the captors told them Donald Trump had been elected, and though they both thought it was a joke they addressed him in their message.

"It didn't enter my mind that he was being serious," Mr Boyle told the Toronto Star on Saturday, in his first wideranging interview since he was freed.

Afghanistan Missing Couple
Afghanistan Missing Couple

FIRST, WHAT WERE THEY DOING IN AFGHANISTAN?

The family was rescued by Pakistani forces last week, but details about the rescue remain murky.

Mr Boyle, a former call centre worker, said all five family members - including their sons Jonah and Noah and newborn daughter Grace - were stuffed into the boot of a car.

He heard shots fired, and said some kidnappers were probably killed, while others fled - however, there's no way to know that for sure.

They touched down in Canada on Friday, and Mr Boyle delivered a statement to the media, but it contained more questions than answers.

For example, what were they doing in Afghanistan in the first place, especially if Ms Coleman was already pregnant with their first child?

"I was in Afghanistan helping the most neglected minority in group in the world. Those ordinary villagers who live deep inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, where no NGO, no aid worker and no government has ever successfully been able to bring the necessary help," he said.

It was first reported the pair were backpacking through Central Asia, and it has since been widely speculated they were working as Christian missionaries.

The Toronto Star pointed out Mr Boyle has so far chosen not to mention his previous marriage to Zaynab Khadr, the daughter of Egyptian-born Canadian Ahmed Said Khadr, who was suspected of financing al-Qaeda before he was killed in Pakistan in 2013.

AP reports one official saying the marriage had nothing to do with the abduction which was being treated as a "a horrible coincidence".

SECOND, WHY DID THEY KEEP HAVING CHILDREN?

Afghanistan Couple Rescued
Afghanistan Couple Rescued

Mr Boyle's statement went on to describe the "stupidity and the evil" of kidnapping "a pilgrim and his heavily pregnant wife" and Ms Coleman's subsequent rape.

He said this was "eclipsed only by the stupids and evil of authorising the murder of my infant daughter, Martyr Boyle, as retaliation for my repeated refusal to accept an offer than the criminal miscreants of the Haqqani network had made to me".

It's also unclear if "Martyr" was the girl's real name, or if her parents refer to her as such because of her death in captivity.

A number of news outlets are reporting she was actually called Margaret - either way, her existence wasn't known until the family touched down.

Mr Boyle didn't elaborate with details about the offer that led to her death.

He said the family was shuffled between three prisons - the first was "remarkably barbaric", the second was more comfortable, and the third was a "place of violence' where he an his wife were frequently separated and severely beaten.

In an email addressed to the Associated Press on Monday, he said the reason they kept having children - despite their obvious peril - because they had always wanted a big family and they thought "hey, let's make the best of this".

"We're sitting as hostages with a lot of time on our hands," he added.

"We always wanted as many [children] as possible, and we didn't want to waste time. Cait's in her 30s, the clock is ticking.

"We're Irish, haha."

He said the children are now aged four, two and "somewhere around six months".

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

At this point, Ms Coleman has declined to be interviewed - she simply nodded to confirm her identity when an Associated Press reported asked.

The couple are now at home in a small town in Ontario, in a house reporter Michelle Shephard said was littered with toys and books, and even a cake from the Pakistan embassy.

The children are getting to know their grandparents, learning it's safe to play in the garden, and discovering the joys of a fully-stocked fridge.

Mr Boyle said his eldest son is particularly fascinated with his discovery of a flushing toilet, but their middle child, Noah, is having a hard time adjusting.

"He's not having a temper tantrum; it's that he saw the colour of orange and orange scares him, or that he saw a screwdriver and screwdrivers scare him. Boots scare him," he explained, adding the security guarding their front door 24/7 has been a trigger.

"He's not scared of them specifically; he's scared of the boots ... Because the only people he has seen wear boots are people who are coming in to kick you."

There's clearly a long road ahead.

As for the president Mr Boyle didn't think was "serious", Donald Trump used the rescue as an opportunity to discuss his agenda for Pakistan.

"The Pakistani government's co-operation is a sign that it is honouring America's wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region," he said.

"At the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change, and that will change immediately."

- with Associated Press

kirrily.schwarz@news.com.au

Topics:  donald trump editors picks hostage taliban



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