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Taliban reject rape, murder claims of freed hostage

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Joshua Boyle speaks to the media after arriving with his wife and three children to Toronto Pearson International Airport on Friday. Reuters

KABUL (AFP) – The Taliban yesterday rejected claims by freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle that his kidnappers had killed his child and raped his wife during the family’s captivity, saying the woman had a “natural miscarriage”.

Mr Boyle and his American wife Caitlan Coleman were seized by the Taliban while hiking in Afghanistan in 2012, and then turned over to the group’s affiliated militant Haqqani network in Pakistan.

The couple and their three children born in captivity were freed on Wednesday in a Pakistani military operation triggered by US intelligence and are now back in Canada. After landing in Toronto on Friday, Mr Boyle accused his captors of killing his baby daughter and raping his wife – accusations which the Taliban said were “fake”.

Visibly angry, Mr Boyle said 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 authorising the murder of my infant daughter,” he said.

Mr 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 is headed by Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also the Afghan Taliban’s deputy leader. 

Mr 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”.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Mr Boyle and Ms Coleman were never separated during their captivity, “precisely due to the fact that the mujahideen did not want to incite any suspicion”, but he admitted a baby had died. “During a period of detention an incident did take place when the woman became ill. The area was remote, no doctors were present and due to this severe condition, the woman had a natural miscarriage of a girl,” Mr Mujahid said..

“The allegations floating around in the media have nothing to do with the reality because the said people are now in the hands of our enemy.”

In a message sent to Canadian media from his parents’ home town of Smith Falls, around 80km from Ottawa, the 34-year-old said the family had safely arrived in the first real “home” his children had ever known.

In remarks emailed to CBC, he said the children – boys aged four and two, and a girl just four months old – were starting to adapt to new surroundings after their ordeal.

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

But questions remain about how Mr Boyle and his pregnant wife found themselves in Taliban-controlled territory, and Ms 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 Ms Coleman, Mr 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.

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

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