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Couple captured by Taliban while traveling say they have a child

WASHINGTON (AP) - The married couple with a taste for exotic travel set out for Central Asia in the summer of 2012, moving as tourists through a region not normally visited by Westerners.

It was a risky venture by any standards, not least because young travelers were expecting their first child. They crossed into Afghanistan where, one day, Joshua Boyle emailed relatives from an Internet cafe in a part of the country he called unsafe.

The Oct. 8, 2012, message was the last anyone heard from the Canadian man or his pregnant wife, Caitlan Coleman. Now there's a new wrinkle in the story.

In two short videos received by Coleman's parents last year, Boyle and Coleman are seen calling on the U.S. government to free them and their child - who would be about 18 months old - from Taliban captors. The video files, which were provided to The Associated Press, were emailed to Coleman's father last July and September by an Afghan man who identified himself as having Taliban ties.

The videos offer the first and only clues about what happened to Coleman and Boyle after they lost touch with their families 20 months ago while traveling in a mountainous region near Kabul. But they leave unanswered basic questions, including the couple's whereabouts and their current welfare. And if she indeed had her baby, where is the child?

"I would ask that my family and my government do everything that they can to bring my husband, child and I to safety and freedom," the 28-year-old American says in one recording, wearing a conservative black garment that covers all but her face. Her husband, with a long and untrimmed beard, sits beside her.

U.S. law enforcement officials investigating the couple's disappearance consider the videos authentic but say they hold limited investigative value since it's not clear when or where they were made.

The families decided to make the videos public now, in light of the publicity surrounding the weekend rescue of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed from Taliban custody in exchange for the release of five high-level Taliban detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The families said they were disappointed that their children and grandchild were not freed as part of the same deal but were appealing for help from anyone who could give it, including the couple's captors or the government.

"It would be no more appropriate to have our government turn their backs on their citizens than to turn their backs on those who serve," Patrick Boyle, a Canadian judge and the father of Joshua Boyle, said in a telephone interview.

The families said their children were prisoners just as Bergdahl was and should be recognized as "innocent tourists." Though the couple made a mistake by venturing on their own into dangerous territory, they - and especially their child - should not be penalized more than they already have been, the families contend.

"It's an event that just stands out. I think it cries to out to the world: 'This can't be. These people must be let go immediately,'" said James Coleman, Coleman's father.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf declined Wednesday to discuss specifics of the case because of privacy considerations. Jean-Bruno Villeneuve, a spokesman for Canada's foreign affairs department, said officials have been working with Afghan authorities.

Relatives describe the couple, who met online as teenagers and wed in 2011, as well-intentioned but naive adventure seekers.

They once spent months in Latin America, where they lived among indigenous Guatemalans. The couple traveled in the summer of 2012 on a journey that took them to Russia, the central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and then to Afghanistan.

"They really and truly believed that if people were loved and treated with respect that would be given back to them in kind," said Linda Boyle, Boyle's mother. "So as odd it as it may seem to us that they were there, they truly believed with all their heart that if they treated people properly, they would be treated properly."

With plans to return home in December ahead of Coleman's due date, they checked in regularly via email during their travels - apparently aware of the perils they faced.

The communications ended abruptly on Oct. 8, 2012. An Afghan official later told the AP that the two had been abducted in Wardak province, a rugged, mountainous Taliban haven.

New hope emerged last year when an Afghan man who said he had Taliban connections contacted James Coleman, offering first audio recordings and, later, the two email video files. Though the man said the recordings had been provided by the Taliban, he did not reveal what, if anything, the captors wanted and has not been in touch with the Colemans for months.

Meanwhile, the Boyles and Colemans regularly send letters in an effort to reach their children through a non-governmental organization, but haven't received a response. The Colemans live in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania; the Boyles live outside Ottawa.

The families have not received any ransom demands and there were no clear signs of motive for their being held, but officials said the mere fact they were Westerners may have been reason enough.

Joshua Boyle was previously married to the sister of Omar Khadr, a Canadian man who spent 10 years at Guantanamo Bay after being captured in 2002 in a firefight at an al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan, but U.S. officials discount any link between that previous family tie and his capture. One called it a mere coincidence.

Two U.S. law enforcement officials described the investigation, speaking only on condition of anonymity because the probe was still underway.

The videos, each under two minutes long and featuring the couple seated in spare settings before cloth-draped backgrounds, contain no apparent clues that might help investigators identify captors or locale. The video files do contain time stamps from different dates last year but officials said those notations could be manipulated easily.

The officials also cautioned that while the videos established that the couple was captured, they did not qualify as proof of life since there was no mention of current events that could help establish the time of recordings.

Even as they hold out hope, the couples fret for their children's safety and for a grandchild born into captivity in a foreign country.

"We love them," said Coleman's mother, Lyn, "and they're needed here. And we need to get them back home."

Join the discussion

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baldbiker2 June 05 2014 at 2:21 PM

Honey, I have a great idea, to celebrate your pregnancy, what ya say wo go roam the mountains of Afghanistan, you know, like the free spirits that we are, doesnt that sound great?" "Oh yes dear, wow, Im ready, lets leave right away, will we be going to unsafe areas"? "Oh you know we will, because we have a "taste for exotic travel""...LOL...Oh God, the stupidity fo some people.

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18 replies
sneakyp957 June 05 2014 at 2:18 PM

BTW,would it be proper to call these two airheads the "Tali Tubbies"?

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8 replies
mistykay13 June 05 2014 at 2:27 PM

WHY would anyone go to the middle east as a tourist?! Guess the Canadians have some pretty self-absorbed STUPID people just as does the USA, huh? DUH.......no sympathy here!

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8 replies
sneakyp957 June 05 2014 at 2:18 PM

"Though the couple made a mistake by venturing on their own into dangerous territory"

Ya think? Maybe they got enough adventure this time.

BTW,WHY does anybody think the US is responsible for the release of Canadian citizens who are nothing but idle rich children who think reality doesn't apply to them?

And since the male idiot was married to the sister of a Taliban leader,I have my doubts about it being a innocent trip.

Captivity does seem to have been good for the pudgy couple,though. Looks like the diet agrees with them.

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8 replies
crujr2 June 05 2014 at 2:30 PM

Wake up people, stay out of that country they do not like us.

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7 replies
petpetdon June 05 2014 at 2:21 PM

Revoke their passports. These two people aren't smart enough to stay out of harm's way.

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3 replies
onionson June 05 2014 at 2:55 PM

So, Joshua Boyle married the sister of a guy who spent 10 years as a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, grew a Taliban looking beard, and decided to back pack around Afghanistan with a pregnant wife? Sounds like they went with another purpose to me. His dad is right, they should be released immediately......... so he can check them into a mental institute.

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10 replies
Trisha June 05 2014 at 2:21 PM

So what is Canada doing about it? They are one from here and the other from Canada. I cant understand why they went to the Middle East. How incredibly stupid.

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3 replies
petpetdon June 05 2014 at 2:19 PM

I am sure Obama can trade a few more prisoners from Gitmo for these people.

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14 replies
excursioner June 05 2014 at 5:09 PM

Obama honors the parents of a deserting traitor and then insults the traitors platoon mates who served with honor and distinction when they tell the truth about Obama's beloved deserting traitor.
I am sure Obama would have gladly traded high value murdering terrorists for these people who put themselves there. Except one problem. Obama won't bargain for the baby that he would rather have seen the mother make the choice to abort.

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1 reply
John excursioner June 05 2014 at 5:36 PM

Hopefully they will not be ransomed out. I they are, they probably will turn out to be muslim terrorist bombers and the blood of anyone murdered by them will rest on whoever pays the phony ransom.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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