N. American family kidnapped by Afghan Taliban freed: Pakistan Army

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)
Updated 12 October 2017
0

N. American family kidnapped by Afghan Taliban freed: Pakistan Army

RAWALPINDI: A North American family that had been held hostage by the Afghan Taliban has been freed following an operation in Pakistan, the Pakistani military said Thursday.
The hostages are “safe and sound and are being repatriated to the country of their origin,” the army said in a statement, after the rescue in Kurram district, part of the semi-autonomous tribal belt along the Afghan border.
“Pak Army recovered 5 Western hostages including 1 Canadian, his US National wife and their three children from terrorist custody,” it said of the operation, which was launched after Pakistani authorities received intelligence from US officials.
It did not name the family, but Canadian Joshua Boyle and his American wife Caitlan Coleman were kidnapped by the Afghan Taliban during a backpacking trip in Afghanistan 2012, and are believed to have had at least two children while in captivity.
Pakistan officials provided no details about the operation.
“We welcome media reports that a family including US citizens has been released from captivity,” a US Embassy spokesman in Islamabad told AFP, without confirming the identity of the released hostages.
Pakistan has been under increased pressure from Washington to crack down on alleged militant sanctuaries inside its borders after US President Donald Trump lambasted the country in a televised address in August.
During the speech, Trump accused Islamabad of sheltering “agents of chaos” and suggested ties with Pakistan would be adjusted immediately but offered few details.
The last known footage of Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman surfaced in December last year when they appeared in video urging their governments to secure their release. They were pictured holding their two young sons, who had been born while they were in captivity.
It was not clear when the video was shot, but it was released after rumors swirled in Kabul that the government was planning to execute Anas Haqqani, son of the Taliban-allied Haqqani network’s founder, who has been held since 2014.
The Haqqani network has been accused of masterminding several high-profile terrorist attacks in the Afghan capital and have been known to kidnap Western hostages and smuggle them across the border into Pakistan.
Kurram tribal agency borders Nangarhar and Paktia provinces in Afghanistan. Both are riven by militancy, with the Daesh group gaining a foothold in Nangarhar and Paktia seen as a Haqqani stronghold.
Afghanistan is rife with militants and organized criminal gangs who stage kidnappings for ransom, often targeting foreigners and wealthy Afghans, who have been ferried over the border into Pakistan’s tribal belt.
The Taliban are also believed to be holding American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weekes, both professors at the American University of Afghanistan, who were dragged from their vehicles in Kabul by gunmen in August last year.
US Special Operations forces conducted a secret raid authorized by then-President Barack Obama to rescue them, but the hostages were not there, the Pentagon said at the time.
They most recently appeared in a hostage video released in June this year.


10 killed in Nicaragua protests against pension reform plan

Updated 8 min 43 sec ago
0

10 killed in Nicaragua protests against pension reform plan

  • Students from Polytechnic University have been holed up on their campus since Thursday evading police.
  • Murillo compared the protesters to "vampires demanding blood to feed their political agenda."
MANAGUA: Violent protests against a proposed change to Nicaragua's pension system have left at least 10 people dead over two days, the government said Friday.
In the biggest protests in President Daniel Ortega's 11 years in office in this poor Central American country, people are angry over the plan because workers and employers would have to chip in more toward the retirement system.
The government is willing to hold a dialogue and Ortega will issue a formal call on Saturday, Vice President Rosario Murillo said, adding: "At least 10 compatriots have died."
Demonstrations rocked the capital Managua and nearby cities for a third day.
The new law, besides increasing employer and employee contributions, would cut the overall pension amount by five percent.
"We are against these reforms, which means we're against this government taking from the pockets of Nicaraguans," said Juan Bautista.
He said riot police brutally attacked demonstrators like him because "the dictator does not like people to protest."
A woman nearby shouted: "The people are tired of this repression!"
Students from Polytechnic University have been holed up on their campus since Thursday evading police. Other students took refuge in nearby buildings or residences.
In Las Colinas, south of the capital, demonstrators raised small barricades and with their hands raised asked the riot police not to target them.
Four independent television outlets were taken off the air after they broadcast the demonstrations on Thursday, and two were still blocked on Friday.
Murillo compared the protesters to "vampires demanding blood to feed their political agenda."
The opposition said more than 20 people were wounded while the writers group Pen Nicaragua said that at least 11 journalists were attacked while covering the demonstrations.
"We call on the Nicaraguan authorities to act to prevent further attacks on demonstrators and on the media," said Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights."
She urged the government to let people "exercise their right to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly and association," and urged protesters to demonstrate "peacefully."
She also said demonstrators were attacked by government supporters in the city of Masaya.
Miguel Mora, director of the private television channel 100% Noticias -- which the government blocked -- accused Ortega of applying the same censorship he imposed in the 1980s during the Sandinista Revolution.
When Ortega returned to power in 2007 he promised to "never censor a media outlet -- and today he is doing just that," Mora told Channel 14.