A Pennsylvania woman held by the Taliban since 2012 appeared in a new video posted online today, looking dazed but healthy with her Canadian husband and saying their captors will kill the couple if the Afghanistan government doesn’t stop executing militant prisoners.
The 2 1/2-minute video with Caitlan Coleman, 30, of Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, 33, is the first glimpse of the couple since 2014, when her parents released two short video clips of them speaking in captivity.
“We have been told that the Afghan government has executed some of their prisoners of these men that are holding us, and that our captors are frightened of the idea of further executions and further death, and that because of their fear they are willing to kill us, willing to kill women, to kill children, to kill whomever in order to get these policies reversed or to take revenge,” Coleman says in a slow, halting voice, almost never raising her gaze from the floor.
Dressed in a black dress and head covering, with her left hand holding what appears to be an earpiece to the side of her face, Coleman speaks directly to her parents and says she knows it is “terrifying and horrifying” for them to hear that she might be executed herself. A counterterrorism analyst studying the video said Coleman and Boyle appeared “out of it.”
Near the end of her short statement, as she asks for their help, the video camera light illuminating the couple switches off suddenly.
“So, if you are willing, if you are able to do anything to help,” Coleman tells her family, just as the light plunges the couple into a dark shadow and she looks up into the lens for a moment, “if you could, please try to help stop this depravity.”
Last month, Jim and Lyn Coleman revealed that they had received a letter from their daughter in November through a neutral party. Caitlan, who was pregnant when she and Boyle went missing during a trip to Ghazni, Afghanistan, four years ago, told her parents in the letter that she’d had a second son born to her, according to the Colemans. The parents also made a video addressed directly to new Taliban leader Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada.
“Thank you for sharing such wonderful news. These blessings brought us great joy,” James Coleman said in the video made last June at the family’s home. “Such news has also brought us great sorrow. We desperately want to be with our daughter and hold our grandsons, who we long to meet and care for.”
Caitlan Coleman has been suspected of being in the custody of the Afghan Taliban’s Haqqani network, which has fought U.S. forces in a lethal insurgency along the border with Pakistan while also operating a lucrative kidnapping for ransom business in both countries. Two years ago, the Obama administration carried out a controversial prisoner swap of five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo Bay for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a prisoner of the Haqqanis for five years.
But the Coleman family in rural Pennsylvania has not received any demands for ransom since her disappearance. Senior counterterrorism officials tell ABC News that Coleman is being held as a hostage against her will and efforts have been made to secure freedom for the young mom and her kids.
The video released today is suspected by counterterrorism officials to be linked to a recent kidnapping, likely by the Haqqani network, of two people including an American in the capital Kabul a few weeks ago. Both incidents are assessed to possibly be in retaliation for the recent death sentence given to Haqqani Network leader Siraj Haqqani’s brother Anas. Siraj Haqqani also serves as one of the deputy emirs of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as the Taliban call their shadow government.
“The Haqqanis are ticked off,” a counterterrorism official familiar with hostage recovery operations told ABC News.
“Our captors are terrified of the thought of their own mortality approaching, and are saying that they will take reprisals on our family,” Boyle says in the new video. “They will execute us, women and children included, if the policies of the Afghan government are not overturned. … And therefore we ask Canada and the United States to change the policies of the Afghan government so that our captors do not have to face the fear of execution in the future, and that we will — our family — will be able to live safely.”
State Department spokesperson John Kirby said today that American officials “remain concerned obviously about the welfare of Caitlan and her family, and we continue to urge immediate release on humanitarian grounds.”