UPDATES THROUGHOUT; CHANGES "RECOVER' TO 'RESCUE' IN HEADLINE
By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) - The military on Thursday announced the rescue of five foreign nationals who had been held hostage by a Taliban-affiliated group since 2012.
“Today they are free,” U.S. President Donald Trump said in a statement “This is a positive moment for our country's relationship with Pakistan. The Pakistani government's cooperation is a sign that it is honoring America's wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region.”
Trump confirmed American Caitlan Coleman, her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, and the couple’s three children who were born in captivity were held hostage by the Haqqani network, a terror group with links to the Taliban.
"We can confirm Josh and family have been freed," Boyle's father, Patrick Boyle, told Canadian media.
The family was rescued by Pakistani troops and the country’s military’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, with the help of intelligence shared by U.S. authorities, the army’s media wing, Inter-Services Public Relations, said in a statement.
The hostages were taken Wednesday to Pakistan’s Kurram tribal region, one of the seven semi-autonomous tribal areas in Pakistan along the Afghan border, the statement said.
“U.S. intelligence agencies had been tracking them and shared their shifting across to Pakistan on Oct. 11 through the Kurram Agency border,” it said.
“The success underscores the importance of timely intelligence sharing and Pakistan's continued commitment towards fighting this menace through cooperation between two forces against a common enemy.”
The efforts of Washington's diplomatic team in Pakistan "reflect the best of what America can accomplish”, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement that expressed the U.S.’s “deep gratitude to the Government of Pakistan and the Pakistani Army for their cooperation”.
The operation followed Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif’s offer to Washington for broader cooperation against the Taliban and its affiliates, especially the Haqqani network, along the Afghan border.
Asif, in an interview with local broadcaster Express News earlier this week, offered U.S. military officials to visit and point out alleged safe havens of the Haqqani network in the tribal region, particularly in North Waziristan.
"Pakistan’s army will destroy them then and there,” he had said.
American officials accuse Pakistan of providing safe haven to the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, a charge Islamabad denies.
* Anadolu Agency’s correspondents Michael Hernandez and Kasim Ileri contributed to this report from Washington, with Barry Ellsworth contributing from Canada