Canadian held in Afghanistan: Who is Joshua Boyle?
The families of a Canadian man and his American wife, who have been held captive in Afghanistan since 2012, have made a public plea to their respective governments to help secure the release of the couple.
Joshua Boyle and his wife Caitlan Coleman were last heard from in October of that year.
The pair had been travelling in Central Asia for a number of months before going missing, reportedly in the Wardak province — a mountainous region just 40 kilometres from Kabul that is a known haven for the Taliban.
The Associated Press reported Boyle, 29, and Coleman planned to come back from their travels in December of that year, about two months after they last contacted family, in time for Coleman to give birth.
Boyle’s father Patrick J. Boyle*, a Tax Court of Canada judge, told AP his grandchild was “born in captivity.”
WATCH: Parents of couple being held in Afghanistan speak out
Boyle met Coleman, from Pennsylvania, online and married her in 2011.
Coleman’s father, James Coleman, told AP in 2012 it was possible the couple may not have realized how dangerous an area they were heading to.
“They’re both kind of naive, always have been in my view. Why they actually went to Afghanistan, I’m not sure… I assume it was more of the same, getting to know the local people, if they could find an NGO (non-governmental organization) or someone they could work with in a little way,” he told AP.
But, Boyle’s interest in the region and his connections to it go deeper than adventure seeking with his wife.
Boyle had a fascination with terrorism, Canadian counterterrorism and security.
“Anything related to terrorism on Wikipedia, I wrote, pretty much,” the University of Waterloo graduate told the Globe and Mail in May 2009.
He also had an interest in the family of Omar Khadr — the Canadian who was captured in Afghanistan and detained at Guantanamo Bay from 2002, when he was just 15, until he was returned to Canada in 2012.
That interview happened after he married Omar Khadr’s oldest sister, Zaynab Khadr, a prominent and outspoken figure herself.
So out spoken that, in a 2009 profile, Maclean’s reported her younger brother’s lawyers “repeatedly begged her to keep quiet.”
In that same article it was noted Boyle was Khadr’s third husband, but it was the first of her marriages that was not arranged by her late father, Ahmed Said Khadr, who was killed in a 2003 shootout with Pakistani forces near the border with Afghanistan.
One of her marriages was attended by Osama bin Laden, according to Khadr herself.
They met on the Internet: he emailed her in 2008 and “to introduce himself and offer support,” according to the 2009 Globe and Mail article.
The Globe and Mail reported he attended the hearings of one of her other brothers — Abdullah, who was facing extradition to the U.S. on terrorism charges, but was later ordered free by an Ontario judge.
Boyle reportedly played a role in organizing his Khadr’s 2008 hunger strike on Parliament Hill, to protest her brother’s detention.
They got married in January 2009 and lived together in Toronto, along with her daughter from her second marriage.
Boyle said his parents, both fundamentalist Christians who live in Ottawa, supported his relationship with Khadr.
“My family is supportive of my marriage and of their extended family, and they believe in the need for justice for all Canadian citizens. We have faith in God and we have faith in justice and we have faith in the Canadian people to do the right thing,” he told Maclean’s.
In the Associated Press article published Wednesday, U.S. officials dismissed his marriage to Khadr as having any sort of connection to his and Coleman’s abduction.
One official called it a “horrible coincidence,” according to AP.
Boyle didn’t speak much of his history with the Khadr family after he moved to Perth-Andover, N.B, where he and Coleman lived until they took off travelling in 2012, according to the Victoria Star.
He moved to the western N.B. community in 2010 after he divorced Khadr and took a job at the now-shuttered Thing5 call centre.
Terry Ritchie, the mayor of Perth-Andover, wrote in a 2013 Facebook post Boyle’s “co-workers here knew he had converted or was converting to Islam.
“He was given special breaks from his job as a customer service representative to pray at appropriate times, co-workers say,” the post from Ritchie read.
Global News reached out to Ritchie for a comment, but he did not respond.
Ritchie told the Victoria Star, in April 2013, Boyle never spoke of plans to go to Afghanistan, but did discuss going to places that had bad reputations.
“He said they were interesting (places), that the dangers are exaggerated and he can do good there. He did work with humanitarian organizations,” he said.
*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported Boyle’s father as Patrick C. Boyle. He name is Patrick J. Boyle.