Caitlan Coleman and family leave Pakistan after hostage ordeal

An American woman and her family freed from the custody of a Taliban-linked group left Pakistan on a flight bound for Britain Friday after her husband earlier declined to board a plane to the U.S., officials said.

Caitlan Coleman, who is originally from Pennsylvania, and Canadian Joshua Boyle were kidnapped by militants while hiking in Afghanistan in late 2012. Coleman was pregnant when she was captured, and the couple had three children while being held hostage.

The Pakistan military said that after it was alerted by U.S. intelligence that the family was being moved across the border from Afghanistan, a team that included infantry and intelligence personnel raced to surround the vehicle.

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Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle, held by Taliban affiliate
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Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle, held by Taliban affiliate

Caitlan Coleman, Joshua Boyle and their children.

(Screenshot from Taliban Video)

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 23: Caitlan Coleman, the wife of Canadian Joshua Boyle, holds her infant daughter as she speaks to the Star from the grounds of a hospital in Ottawa, in her first interview since the family's rescue from Taliban- linked militants in Pakistan. (Michelle Shephard/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle and one of his children walk outside the Boyle's family home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, on October 14, 2017. Boyle, whose family was freed from captivity in Pakistan last week, arrived back home early October 14. He accused his kidnappers of murdering his baby daughter and raping his wife during his family's years-long captivity by the Haqqani network, a Taliban-affiliated group operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Boyle leveled the accusations in a terse statement he read on arrival in Toronto late October 13 with his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, and three children, who were freed on October 11 by Pakistani troops. / AFP PHOTO / Mike CARROCCETTO (Photo credit should read MIKE CARROCCETTO/AFP/Getty Images)

Joshua Boyle speaks to the media after arriving with his wife and three children to Toronto Pearson International Airport, nearly 5 years after he and his wife were abducted in Afghanistan in 2012 by the Taliban-allied Haqqani network, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, October 13, 2017.

(REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

Linda Boyle, mother of freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle, arrives with grocery bags at the Boyle family home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, on October 14, 2017. Freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle, who arrived back home early October 14 morning, accused his kidnappers of murdering his baby daughter and raping his wife during his family's years-long captivity by the Haqqani network, a Taliban-affiliated group operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Boyle leveled the accusations in a terse statement he read on arrival in Toronto late October 13 with his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, and three children, who were freed on October 11 by Pakistani troops. / AFP PHOTO / Mike Carroccetto (Photo credit should read MIKE CARROCCETTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle watches as one of his children plays outside the Boyle's family home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, on October 14, 2017. Boyle, whose family was freed from captivity in Pakistan last week, arrived back home early October 14. He accused his kidnappers of murdering his baby daughter and raping his wife during his family's years-long captivity by the Haqqani network, a Taliban-affiliated group operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Boyle leveled the accusations in a terse statement he read on arrival in Toronto late October 13 with his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, and three children, who were freed on October 11 by Pakistani troops. / AFP PHOTO / Mike CARROCCETTO (Photo credit should read MIKE CARROCCETTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Joshua Boyle speaks to the media after arriving with his wife and three children at Toronto Pearson International Airport, nearly 5 years after he and his wife were abducted in Afghanistan in 2012 by the Taliban-allied Haqqani network, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Blinch
Security guards outside freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle's family home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, on October 14, 2017. Freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle, who arrived back home early October 14 morning, accused his kidnappers of murdering his baby daughter and raping his wife during his family's years-long captivity by the Haqqani network, a Taliban-affiliated group operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Boyle leveled the accusations in a terse statement he read on arrival in Toronto late October 13 with his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, and three children, who were freed on October 11 by Pakistani troops. / AFP PHOTO / Mike Carroccetto (Photo credit should read MIKE CARROCCETTO/AFP/Getty Images)
SMITHS FALLS, ON - OCT. 12: Boyle-room: The room in the Boyle's Smith Falls, Ont. home that has been set up for the return of Joshua Boyle's three children, born in captivity during their five years held hostage. (Michelle Shephard/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Linda Boyle, mother of freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle, arrives at the Boyle family home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, on October 14, 2017. Freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle, who arrived back home early October 14 morning, accused his kidnappers of murdering his baby daughter and raping his wife during his family's years-long captivity by the Haqqani network, a Taliban-affiliated group operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Boyle leveled the accusations in a terse statement he read on arrival in Toronto late October 13 with his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, and three children, who were freed on October 11 by Pakistani troops. / AFP PHOTO / Mike Carroccetto (Photo credit should read MIKE CARROCCETTO/AFP/Getty Images)
SMITHS FALLS, ON - OCT. 12: Patrick Boyle, his wife Linda and security consultant Andy Ellis talk to Canadian and U.S. officials about the release of Joshua Boyle, his wife Caitlan Coleman and their three children. The couple had been held hostage for five years by the Haqqani network. Their three children were born in captivity. (Michelle Shephard/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
SMITHS FALLS, ON - OCT. 12: Joshua Boyle's sister sits with their family dog, with a crib in the foreground that family is getting ready for her 2-month-old niece. (Michelle Shephard/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 12 - Linda and Patrick Boyle in their Smith Falls, ON. home awaiting the arrival of their son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren who were rescued by the Pakistani army on Oct. 11. Joshua Boyle, 34, Caitlan Coleman, 31 were held hostage by the Haqqani network for five years. All three of their children, two sons 4 an 2 and a 2-month-old daughter were born in captivity. (Randy Risling/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Joshua Boyle walks through the airport after arriving with his wife and three children at Toronto Pearson International Airport, nearly 5 years after he and his wife were abducted in Afghanistan in 2012 by the Taliban-allied Haqqani network, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Blinch
Patrick Boyle, father of freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle walks outside his home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, on October 14, 2017. Joshua Boyle, whose family was freed from captivity in Pakistan last week, arrived back home early October 14. He accused his kidnappers of murdering his baby daughter and raping his wife during his family's years-long captivity by the Haqqani network, a Taliban-affiliated group operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Boyle leveled the accusations in a terse statement he read on arrival in Toronto late October 13 with his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, and three children, who were freed on October 11 by Pakistani troops. / AFP PHOTO / Mike CARROCCETTO (Photo credit should read MIKE CARROCCETTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Joshua Boyle stands with his father Patrick Doyle (L) after arriving with his wife and three children to Toronto Pearson International Airport, nearly 5 years after he and his wife were abducted in Afghanistan in 2012 by the Taliban-allied Haqqani network, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Blinch
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 12 - Linda and Patrick Boyle in their Smith Falls, ON. home awaiting the arrival of their son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren who were rescued by the Pakistani army on Oct. 11. Joshua Boyle, 34, Caitlan Coleman, 31 were held hostage by the Haqqani network for five years. All three of their children, two sons 4 an 2 and a 2-month-old daughter were born in captivity. (Randy Risling/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle talks on the phone outside the Boyle family home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, on October 14, 2017. Boyle, whose family was freed from captivity in Pakistan last week, arrived back home early October 14. He accused his kidnappers of murdering his baby daughter and raping his wife during his family's years-long captivity by the Haqqani network, a Taliban-affiliated group operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Boyle leveled the accusations in a terse statement he read on arrival in Toronto late October 13 with his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, and three children, who were freed on October 11 by Pakistani troops. / AFP PHOTO / Mike CARROCCETTO (Photo credit should read MIKE CARROCCETTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle talks on the phone as one of his children plays outside the Boyle's family home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, on October 14, 2017. Boyle, whose family was freed from captivity in Pakistan last week, arrived back home early October 14. He accused his kidnappers of murdering his baby daughter and raping his wife during his family's years-long captivity by the Haqqani network, a Taliban-affiliated group operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Boyle leveled the accusations in a terse statement he read on arrival in Toronto late October 13 with his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, and three children, who were freed on October 11 by Pakistani troops. / AFP PHOTO / Mike CARROCCETTO (Photo credit should read MIKE CARROCCETTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Joshua Boyle speaks to the media after arriving with his wife and three children to Toronto Pearson International Airport, nearly 5 years after he and his wife were abducted in Afghanistan in 2012 by the Taliban-allied Haqqani network, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Blinch
Freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle talks on the phone outside the Boyle family home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, on October 14, 2017. Boyle, whose family was freed from captivity in Pakistan last week, arrived back home early October 14. He accused his kidnappers of murdering his baby daughter and raping his wife during his family's years-long captivity by the Haqqani network, a Taliban-affiliated group operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Boyle leveled the accusations in a terse statement he read on arrival in Toronto late October 13 with his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, and three children, who were freed on October 11 by Pakistani troops. / AFP PHOTO / Mike CARROCCETTO (Photo credit should read MIKE CARROCCETTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Journalists wait outside freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle's family home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, on October 14, 2017. Freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle, who arrived back home early October 14 morning, accused his kidnappers of murdering his baby daughter and raping his wife during his family's years-long captivity by the Haqqani network, a Taliban-affiliated group operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Boyle leveled the accusations in a terse statement he read on arrival in Toronto late October 13 with his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, and three children, who were freed on October 11 by Pakistani troops. / AFP PHOTO / Mike Carroccetto (Photo credit should read MIKE CARROCCETTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Journalists work outside freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle's family home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, on October 14, 2017. Freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle, who arrived back home early October 14 morning, accused his kidnappers of murdering his baby daughter and raping his wife during his family's years-long captivity by the Haqqani network, a Taliban-affiliated group operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Boyle leveled the accusations in a terse statement he read on arrival in Toronto late October 13 with his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, and three children, who were freed on October 11 by Pakistani troops. / AFP PHOTO / Mike Carroccetto (Photo credit should read MIKE CARROCCETTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Security guards outside freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle's family home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, on October 14, 2017. Freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle, who arrived back home early October 14 morning, accused his kidnappers of murdering his baby daughter and raping his wife during his family's years-long captivity by the Haqqani network, a Taliban-affiliated group operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Boyle leveled the accusations in a terse statement he read on arrival in Toronto late October 13 with his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, and three children, who were freed on October 11 by Pakistani troops. / AFP PHOTO / Mike Carroccetto (Photo credit should read MIKE CARROCCETTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Patrick Boyle, father of freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle, puts up a bedsheet to block the view of journalists camped outside the Boyle family home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, on October 14, 2017. Freed Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle, who arrived back home early October 14 morning, accused his kidnappers of murdering his baby daughter and raping his wife during his family's years-long captivity by the Haqqani network, a Taliban-affiliated group operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Boyle leveled the accusations in a terse statement he read on arrival in Toronto late October 13 with his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, and three children, who were freed on October 11 by Pakistani troops. / AFP PHOTO / Mike Carroccetto (Photo credit should read MIKE CARROCCETTO/AFP/Getty Images)
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"The vehicle was immobilized with sharp shooting. We destroyed their tires. The hostages remained inside the vehicle. The driver, and an accomplice, managed to escape to a nearby refugee camp," Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, a spokesman for the Pakistani military, told NBC News. "We moved the hostages via helicopter to Islamabad. They were then handed over to U.S. authorities."

U.S. military officials pushed back on the idea that the release was the result of a hostile, armed confrontation, with one official describing it as more of a diplomatic handover.

The U.S. had a C-130 ready to fly the family out of Pakistan but the husband did not want the U.S.-supplied transportation, three American officials told NBC News. It was not clear why they rejected the opportunity to immediately leave.

The family left for the U.K. on Friday but their final destination was not immediately clear, according to a senior Pakistani military official.

"It's a blessing that those children have survived and they're young enough that they can live a normal life," Boyle's aunt, Kelli O'Brien, told Canadian broadcaster Global TV. "It was my sister who called me and let me know that they’ve been saved and they’re coming home after five years — that it was really happening this time, that they had been saved."

FBI Director Chris Wray said "we could not be happier" about the outcome.

"It's a great day. They've been held a long time," he said.

Coleman's family posted a note on their door referring to the "joyful news" and asking for privacy "as we make plans for the future."

The family were held by the Haqqani network, an insurgent group that supports the Taliban, when the Pakistani military mounted what it called "an intelligence-based operation."

The Haqqani network, whose leader is the deputy head of the Afghan Taliban, also held Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five years. The Afghan Taliban obtained five top commanders in exchange for the U.S. soldier in 2014 in a deal with the U.S. that was brokered by Qatar.

The couple had pleaded for their release in propaganda videos released by their captors. In one released in December, Coleman referred to "the Kafkaesque nightmare in which we find ourselves" and urged "governments on both sides" to reach a deal for their freedom. She then adds: "My children have seen their mother defiled."

Ghafoor said "no prisoner exchange or ransom money" was involved in freeing Coleman, Boyle and their children.

Before he married Coleman, Boyle was briefly married to the sister of Omar Khadr, a Canadian who spent 10 years at Guantanamo Bay after being captured as a teenager during a firefight at an al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan. After Coleman and Boyle were taken, U.S. officials said they did not think his connection to the Khadr family was a factor.

After the couple was freed, President Donald Trump called the operation "a positive moment" for U.S.-Pakistan relations. Pakistan's cooperation was a "sign that it is honoring America's wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region," Trump added.

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Haqqani network -- a Taliban-linked group
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Haqqani network -- a Taliban-linked group
MIRAM SHAH, PAKISTAN - APRIL 2: A picture dated 02 April 1991 shows Afghan commander Jalaluddin Haqqani (C) at his Pakistani base in Miram Shah with Amin Wardak and Abdul Haq, two top guerilla commanders. The Taliban said they had surrounded 50 followers of opposition commander Abdul Haq and acclaimed his capture 26 October 2001 as a major triumph, Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) news agency said. (Photo credit should read ZUBAIR MIR/AFP/Getty Images)
To go with Afghanistan-Pakistan-unrest-Haqqani,FOCUS by Charlotte McDonald-Gibson In this photo taken on April 8, 2010, an Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier inspects seized guns recovered during a house-to-house search in Shembowat village of Khost province. Hours before the children arrive, US soldiers take up positions in a pitch-black school, rooms riddled with bullets holes from one of a wave of attacks blamed on the Haqqani network. When the sun rises, their Afghan counterparts go house-to-house around Shembowat village to try and root out supporters of a Haqqani cell that has been mounting attacks on security forces in the mountains of Khost province. This is the heartland of the Haqqani network, a Taliban-affiliated armed group that has become a particularly prickly thorn in the side of US-led forces trying to bring security to eastern Afghanistan. The network is one of their toughest foes. Its leadership is based in Pakistan, it has a decentralised cell structure, close ties with foreign militant groups including Al-Qaeda and a long history in the area. AFP PHOTO/Massoud HOSSAINI (Photo credit should read MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images)
To go with Afghanistan-Pakistan-unrest-Haqqani,FOCUS by Charlotte McDonald-Gibson In this photo taken on April 8, 2010, Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers near weapons recovered during a house-to-house search in Shembowat village of Khost province. Hours before the children arrive, US soldiers take up positions in a pitch-black school, rooms riddled with bullets holes from one of a wave of attacks blamed on the Haqqani network. When the sun rises, their Afghan counterparts go house-to-house around Shembowat village to try and root out supporters of a Haqqani cell that has been mounting attacks on security forces in the mountains of Khost province. This is the heartland of the Haqqani network, a Taliban-affiliated armed group that has become a particularly prickly thorn in the side of US-led forces trying to bring security to eastern Afghanistan. The network is one of their toughest foes. Its leadership is based in Pakistan, it has a decentralised cell structure, close ties with foreign militant groups including Al-Qaeda and a long history in the area. AFP PHOTO/Massoud HOSSAINI (Photo credit should read MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images)
To go with Afghanistan-Pakistan-unrest-Haqqani,FOCUS by Charlotte McDonald-Gibson In this photo taken on April 8, 2010, an Afghan National Army (ANA) General shows seized explosives near guns recovered during a house-to-house search in Shembowat village of Khost province. Hours before the children arrive, US soldiers take up positions in a pitch-black school, rooms riddled with bullets holes from one of a wave of attacks blamed on the Haqqani network. When the sun rises, their Afghan counterparts go house-to-house around Shembowat village to try and root out supporters of a Haqqani cell that has been mounting attacks on security forces in the mountains of Khost province. This is the heartland of the Haqqani network, a Taliban-affiliated armed group that has become a particularly prickly thorn in the side of US-led forces trying to bring security to eastern Afghanistan. The network is one of their toughest foes. Its leadership is based in Pakistan, it has a decentralised cell structure, close ties with foreign militant groups including Al-Qaeda and a long history in the area. AFP PHOTO/Massoud HOSSAINI (Photo credit should read MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images)
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - May 24: U.S. soldiers on a mission to apprehend an alleged Haqqani network fighter they suspected of participating in a bombing that killed 5 Afghan policemen in January.  (Photo by Joshua Partlow/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY 'Afghanistan-unrest-Haqqani-Pakistan,FOCUS' by Benjamin Sheppard US soldiers from Viper company (Bravo) 1-26 Infantry are seen on foot patrol in a mountainous area 30 kilometers from the border with Pakistan at Combat Outpost (COP) Sabari in Khost province, east of Afghanistan on June 24, 2011. The United States is preparing for talks with Taliban rebels to end the war in Afghanistan, but the real enemy in the country's east is another militia group viewed as beyond reconciliation. The brutal Haqqani network is the driving force behind the insurgency along much of Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, and its rejection of any Kabul government presents a major threat to the developing peace plans. AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)
PAKTIKA, AFGHANISTAN - AUGUST 28: Apache Company 2-28 Infantry patrol Sar Hawza on August 28, 2011 in the Paktika Province in Afghanistan. The region has been under attacks by the Haqqani Network. (Photo by Kuni Takahashi/Getty Images)
PAKTIKA, AFGHANISTAN - AUGUST 28: Apache Company 2-28 Infantry patrol Sar Hawza on August 28, 2011 in the Paktika Province in Afghanistan. The region has been under attacks by the Haqqani Network. (Photo by Kuni Takahashi/Getty Images)
PAKTIKA, AFGHANISTAN - SEPTEMBER 2: Apache Company 2-28 Infantry patrol Mata Khan on September 2, 2011 in the Paktika Province in Afghanistan. The region has been under attacks by the Haqqani Network. (Photo by Kuni Takahashi/Getty Images)
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN - OCTOBER 31:Afghani and U.S. soldiers patrol Afghan villages asking about Taliban and Haqqani network activity in the area in the Paktika Province, Afghanistan on October 31, 2011. U.S. soldiers were trying to determine if insurgents passed through the villages and how they were treating the people. They entered the men of the villages into their biometric database, taking finger-prints and retinal scans(Photo by Joshua Partlow/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - NOVEMBER 11: The scene with the bullet holes on the wall where Nasiruddin Haqqani, the eldest son of Jalaluddin Haqqani the chief of the Haqqani network is shot dead in Barakahu town near Islamabad on 10 November. (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Pakistani children look at bullet holes at the spot where Nasiruddin Haqqani, a senior leader of the feared militant Haqqani network, was assassinated outside the Afghan bakery in the Bhara Kahu area on the outskirts of Islamabad on November 11, 2013. A senior member of the Haqqani militant network which is seen as one of the biggest threats to US-led forces in Afghanistan has been shot dead in the Pakistani capital, the Taliban said November 11. AFP PHOTO/Farooq NAEEM (Photo credit should read FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images)
Insurgents suspected of being from the Haqqani network are presented to the media at the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) headquarters in Kabul on May 30, 2013. Afghan intelligence agents captured six militants with suicide vests and heavy weaponry who were planning a major attack in Kabul. AFP/ Daud Yardost (Photo credit should read DAUD YARDOST/AFP/Getty Images)
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The U.S. has long criticized Pakistan for not aggressively going after the Haqqani network, which is considered part of the Taliban.

In August, Trump warned Pakistan "has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists," a reference to the country's alleged support for militant groups like the Haqqani network. Pakistan rejects accusations that it shelters the militants.

The Haqqanis waged war on NATO forces in Afghanistan and have been blamed for many of the more than 2,000 U.S. military deaths there.

Due to their wealth and deep links to local tribes, one Western diplomat dubbed the Haqqanis "the Kennedys of the Taliban movement."

Courtney Kube and Hans Nichols reported from Washington. Wajahat S. Khan reported from Islamabad, Pakistan. F. Brinley Bruton reported from London. Mushtaq Yusufzai reported from Peshawar, Pakistan.

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