For the family of Joshua Boyle, today has been a long time coming.
Boyle, along with his American wife and three children, were freed from the Taliban-linked group in Pakistan Thursday after five years in captivity.
Asked how she was taking the news, Boyle’s aunt, Kelli O’Brien, just said: “Shocked.”
“Everything just stopped in me, just shocked,” she said.
The only contact his family had was through hostage videos.
“All the hopes after five years, all the prayers … this time it had actually happened,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said Boyle’s mom first received the news in the middle of the night. She was able to talk to him early this morning.
“No words can describe what it’s like to hear her son’s voice and to know that they are still alive and that they’re coming home,” she said. “[It’s] something that nobody can ever imagine.”
Boyle, who is from Waterloo, Ont., was travelling with Caitlin Coleman in central Asia when they were kidnapped by an offshoot of the Taliban called the Haqqani network. Coleman was pregnant at the time; she has since given birth to three children.
“It’s a blessing that those children have survived and they’re young enough that they can live a normal life,” O’Brien said.
“And they will know what true family means and can feel the love of their family”
There are few details of what happened during the five years they were held. In one hostage video, Boyle is seen pleading with Ottawa to pressure the Afghan government to stop killing prisoners.
U.S. Gen. John Kelly said the family was being kept in a hole in the ground.
Pakistani officials announced the family’s release Thursday morning, saying they were found in a vehicle during a raid by Pakistani commandos.
Five Haqqani members were killed in the shootout and Boyle himself was hit by shrapnel.
They were then flown by helicopter to the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan where they remain.
It’s unclear whether they’ll return to the U.S. or Canada. There are reports saying Boyle was nervous to fly on a U.S. plane because of his background.
American media outlets suggested that was due to Boyle’s previous marriage to Omar Khadr’s sister – but Boyle’s family says that has nothing to do with it.
“He just doesn’t trust anyone,” O’Brian said.
She described him as a Mennonite who travelled the world to work with NGOs or to volunteer. Friends of Coleman’s told the Associated Press she was focused on helping the poor even as a child, when she went door-to-door to raise money for impoverished people in Haiti.
Boyle’s family says they don’t know the specific reason he and Coleman were in Afghanistan.
They say it may have been naïve of the couple, but that wasn’t worth the high price they paid.
With files from the Associated Press
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