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    FILE - In this June 4, 2014 file photo, mother's Linda Boyle, left and Lyn Coleman hold a photo of their married children, Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman, in Stewartstown, Pa. Pakistan’s military said soldiers have recovered 5 Western hostages held by the Taliban for years saying it worked with U.S. intelligence officials to track down the hostages and free them after discovering they had been brought into Pakistan

    N. American Backpackers Freed From Five Years' Islamist Captivity in Afghanistan

    © AP Photo/ Bill Gorman
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    An American woman and her Canadian husband, who disappeared five years ago in northern Afghanistan, have been freed by the Pakistani military from captivity with a Taliban-allied group.

    An American woman, her Canadian husband and their three children have been released after five years as hostages of a Taliban-allied insurgent group, US and Pakistani officials said on Thursday.

    The operation to free them was undertaken by the Pakistani military in cooperation with US intelligence agencies monitoring the hostages, who discovered that they had entered Pakistan earlier this week.

    "All hostages were recovered safe and sound and are being repatriated to the country of their origin,'' the Pakistani military stated.

    Caitlan Coleman, who was heavily pregnant at the time of their capture in late 2012, and Joshua Boyle had arrived in Afghanistan after a tour of Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan

    This still image made from a 2013 video released by the Coleman family shows Caitlan Coleman and her husband, Canadian Joshua Boyle in a militant video given to the family
    © AP Photo/ Coleman family
    This still image made from a 2013 video released by the Coleman family shows Caitlan Coleman and her husband, Canadian Joshua Boyle in a militant video given to the family
    The last time they contacted home prior to the kidnapping was Oct. 8, 2012, when Boyle contacted Coleman's parents from an internet cafe in what he described as an "unsafe'' part of northern Afghanistan.

    Their whereabouts was unknown until 2013, when they appeared in two videos asking the US government to free them. In November 2015, Coleman's parents received a letter from their daughter in which she wrote that she had given birth to a second child in captivity, they told Circa News.

    They last appeared in a video in December 2016, which showed them with two sons who the couple referred to as their "surviving children." Sources told ABC News that the couple had also had a third child while in captivity.

    In the video, Coleman described the "the Kafkaesque nightmare in which we find ourselves" and pleaded with their governments to negotiate a release with their captors.

    It is believed they were captured by the Afghan Haqqani Network, an Islamist insurgent group affiliated with the Taliban and with links to al-Qaeda. Unlike the Daesh terrorist group, the group prefers to exchange its hostages for cash rather than execute them.

    The Haqqani Network emerged in Afghanistan in the 1970s but its leadership relocated to North Waziristan in Pakistan after the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. While its headquarters remained in Pakistan, the group has continued to carry out deadly attacks in Afghanistan.

    In 2015, Pakistan finally outlawed the Haqqani Network, but the government has taken little action against the group until now. 

    In July, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis told Congress that the US was withholding $50 million in funding from Pakistan because he "could not certify that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani Network."

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