American hostage mom Caitlan Coleman leaves Canada, returns to US with children

Coleman and her children were freed from Taliban captivity in October.

July 24, 2018, 4:54 PM

Former Taliban hostage Caitlan Coleman returned to the United States with her three children on Monday, almost six years after she was abducted while backpacking across Afghanistan with her husband, ABC News has learned.

Coleman is petitioning an Ottawa family court to grant her full legal custody of the children she shares with Joshua Boyle, who is facing multiple allegations of physical and sexual assault stemming from incidents since his return to Canada.

On Monday, a judge ruled that Coleman, a U.S. citizen, could relocate pending a resolution of her case, so she decided to leave both Canada and Boyle behind, crossing the U.S.-Canada border with her three children that same night.

Coleman declined to comment, and Coleman’s family declined to disclose her final destination but said the search for a suitable location for her and her family has taken on a new urgency – Caitlan discovered earlier this year that she is pregnant with her fourth child.

PHOTO: Caitlan Coleman and her daughter in 2018.
Caitlan Coleman and her daughter in 2018.
James Gordon Meek

“I’m excited that my daughter and her children are finally coming back to the U.S. after all the years of captivity,” Caitlan’s father Jim told ABC News. "The first thing we want to do is to help Caity establish a good and stable home and help her and the kids continue their recovery from captivity.”

Boyle has pleaded not guilty to the charges filed against him. His criminal defense attorneys had no immediate comment in response to questions from ABC News.

Coleman, 32, her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle, 34, and their three young children – all of whom were born as prisoners – were freed from captivity in Pakistan in October following a five-year ordeal under the control of the Afghan Taliban’s extremist Haqqani Network.

The family flew to Toronto and settled in Ottawa, and in her first television interview in November, Coleman detailed the family's harrowing experience in captivity, telling ABC News that she had once been raped by Taliban guards.

It wasn’t long, however, before the already bizarre saga took another dark turn. On New Year’s Eve, police in Ottawa arrested Boyle and jailed him on multiple charges, including physical and sexual assault of a woman and physical assault of a child.

The judge ordered a publication ban in January, meaning the alleged victims and most details of the criminal investigation could not be revealed by news media. As a general policy, ABC News does not name victims in cases of alleged sexual assault.

PHOTO: A still image from a video posted by the Taliban on social media, Dec. 19, 2016, shows American Caitlan Coleman next to her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle and their two sons.
A still image from a video posted by the Taliban on social media, Dec. 19, 2016, shows American Caitlan Coleman next to her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle and their two sons.
Taliban/Social media via Reuters

Since the family’s arrival in Canada, Boyle has made a series of contradictory claims about their reasons for traveling to Afghanistan in 2012 and about their captivity.

Boyle was known in Canada for his activism even before becoming a hostage of the Haqqani Network. He was previously married to one of Canada's most outspoken pro-jihadi women, Zaynab Khadr, whose two brothers were imprisoned at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp but were later released.

While U.S. intelligence officials always considered Coleman a Taliban hostage, officials often expressed doubts to ABC News about Boyle's motives in traveling to Afghanistan with his then-pregnant wife in 2012. Boyle told ABC News days before his arrest on assault charges that those doubts were unfounded and referred to his Haqqani captors as "criminal miscreants."

Boyle was granted bail in June but still faces 19 criminal charges and is restricted to his parents' home in Smiths Falls, Ontario, while he continues psychiatric treatment and awaits trial.