WASHINGTON — An American woman and her family who have been held hostage by militants in Afghanistan for five years have been freed, ending a case that has long frustrated diplomats and FBI agents involved in trying to secure their release, according to people familiar with the situation.
The family was in Pakistan early Thursday, and the White House was preparing to release a statement once they are safely in U.S. hands, according to people who described their status on condition of anonymity because the details have not yet been made public.
Media in the region reported that the Pakistani military had initially taken custody of the family.
The family was freed with the help of another country, the person said, but it was not clear what, if any, concessions were made to the Haqqani network, the Taliban faction that had seized Caitlan Coleman, 31, and her Canadian husband, Josh Boyle, 34.
The pair was taken in October 2012 while backpacking in the Wardak province, a militant stronghold near Kabul. At the time of her abduction, Coleman was pregnant. She had two more children in captivity, adding pressure to resolve an already desperate situation.
Previously, the Haqqani network had demanded the release of Anas Haqqani, one of their commanders. The Afghan government managed to capture him in 2014, and he was sentenced to death. The group had threatened to kill the family if the Afghans executed him.
In December, the militants released a video of the family, including footage depicting her two children. She described her time as a hostage as "Kafkaesque" and said she had been "defiled."
"Their group will do us harm and punish us," she said. "So we ask that you are merciful to their people and, God willing, they will release us."
During a video made public in August 2016, Coleman urged the U.S. government to "help stop this depravity." She also said her captors "will execute us."
In January 2016, Colin Rutherford, a Canadian, was freed after Qatar arranged a prisoner swap with the Afghan government. Officials had hoped Rutherford would be the first in a series of releases, including Coleman and her family.
But it didn't happen for reasons that remain unclear.