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US-Canadian couple released from Taliban's Haqqani network

Canadian Joshua Boyle and his wife Caitlan Coleman, who is from the United States, have been set free by the Taliban in Pakistan. The couple's three children, who were born in captivity, were also released.

Joshua Boyle, Caitlan Coleman (picture-alliance/Candioan Press/Coleman Family)

Boyle and Coleman in a 2014 video

The Pakistani military on Thursday announced the release of a US-Canadian couple and their three children from the Taliban's Haqqani faction in Pakistan.

The hostages are "safe and sound and are being repatriated to the country of their origin," the army said in a statement after the family members were rescued in Kurram district, part of the semi-autonomous tribal belt along the Afghan border.

Read more: Opinion: Lacking strategy, Trump fights on in Afghanistan

The family has been taken to the capital, Islamabad, and would fly to Canada soon, a military official told German news agency DPA. All family members appeared to be well.

Watch video 04:27

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on curbing terrorism

US officials said Pakistan secured the family's release. The Pakistani officials, however, did not release any further details on the operation.

US President Donald Trump praised the family's release, calling it a "positive moment" in US-Pakistani relations.

"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," the White House said in a statement.

"They worked very hard on this, and I believe they're starting to respect the United States again," Trump trold reporters. "I think right now a lot of countries are starting to respect the United States of America once again."

Pakistan has been under increased pressure from Washington to crack down on alleged militant sanctuaries inside its borders after Trump attacked the country in a televised address in August.    

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are due in Pakistan on separate visits later this month to maintain pressure on a country that was a Cold War US ally.

Abducted while traveling

The couple was abducted five years ago while traveling in Afghanistan and had been held by the Haqqani network in Pakistan. Coleman was pregnant when she was captured. The couple had all three children while being held by the Taliban.

They were found in Kurram district, part of Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt, where militants such as the Haqqanis operated until a crackdown in 2014.

The Haqqani network is classified as a terrorist network by the US, which has targeted its leaders with drone strikes. Unlike "Islamic State," it does not typically execute Western hostages, preferring to demand ransom.

Boyle was once married to the sister of a former inmate at the US military detention center at Guantamo Bay. CNN reported he might fear some kind of US legal prosecution and had refused to be flown by the US back to Canada.

Read more: Ignoring US pressure, Pakistan mainstreams jihadi groups

The last known footage of Boyle and Coleman surfaced in December last year when they appeared in a video urging their governments to secure their release.

US President Donald Trump has called on Pakistan to do more to tackle what he called "agents of chaos"- militant organizations that use Pakistan's territory as a home base.

Canada's foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, expressed relief at the release, saying: "Joshua, Caitlan, their children and the Boyle and Coleman families have endured a horrible ordeal over the past five years."

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Imran Khan: military solution has failed in Pakistan and Afghanistan

ng/sms (AP, dpa, AFP)

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