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Former Taliban hostage breaks silence about forced abortion, disputes account of rescue

OTTAWA, Canada — An American woman who gave birth to three children while being held hostage by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network is opening up about a forced abortion and is disputing what happened during her family’s rescue from captivity.

Caitlan Coleman, 31, her Canadian husband, 34-year-old Joshua Boyle, and their three children were rescued on Oct. 11, five years after the couple was abducted in October 2012 in Afghanistan while on a backpacking trip. She was pregnant when they were captured and all three children were born in captivity.

Coleman spoke to the Toronto Star Monday after being shunned publicly  and criticized for traveling to a dangerous country while pregnant.

However, her husband spoke to the media immediately after landing at Toronto’s airport on Friday, revealing that the Haqqani network killed their infant daughter and raped his wife during the years they were held.

During the interview on Monday, Coleman confirmed she had been “defiled” in front of her children and that the forced abortion was in retaliation for her husband’s refusal to join the Haqqani network when they allegedly tried to recruit him.

“They were very angry because Joshua had been asked to join them, to work for them, and he said no,” Coleman told the Star. “They killed her by dosing the food. They put massive doses of estrogen in the food.”

High levels of estrogen in a pregnancy can cause a miscarriage.

Coleman said that after she lost the baby, whom she named “Martyr,” the kidnappers bragged about what they had done. Last week, the Taliban released a statement claiming she lost the baby naturally.

Coleman kept her two additional pregnancies a secret, telling The Star she delivered her two youngest children in silence and by the glow of a flashlight.

On Monday, Boyle told the AP that he and his wife decided to have children even while held captive because they always planned to have a big family and decided, “Hey, let’s make the best of this and at least go home with a larger start on our dream family.”

“We’re sitting as hostages with a lot of time on our hands,” Boyle told AP. “We always wanted as many as possible, and we didn’t want to waste time. Cait’s in her 30s, the clock is ticking.”

Boyle said their three children are now 4, 2 and “somewhere around 6 months.” “Honestly we’ve always planned to have a family of 5, 10, 12 children … We’re Irish, haha,” he wrote in an email.

The parents of Coleman have said they are elated she is free, but also angry at their son-in law for taking their daughter to Afghanistan.

“Taking your pregnant wife to a very dangerous place, to me, and the kind of person I am, is unconscionable,” Caitlan’s father, Jim Coleman said, told ABC News.

On Monday, Coleman said she decided to speak up now because she felt her family’s rescue was being used for political purposes.

The Taliban released a “proof of life” video of the couple and their two children in December 2016 where Coleman addressed President Barack Obama and then President-elect Trump, saying the Taliban “are not going to simply release our family easily, because it is correct. They want money, power and friends. … We are told there are Afghans who are prisoners in Kabul that these men care about.”

The Pakistani military had said the family had been freed in “an intelligence-based operation by Pakistan troops” after they’d crossed the border from Afghanistan.

“Today they are free,” President Donald Trump said in a statement, crediting the U.S.-Pakistani partnership for securing the release.

Trump later praised Pakistan for its willingness to “do more to provide security in the region” and said the release suggests other “countries are starting to respect the United States of America once again.”

But Coleman said her family was moved back and forth between Afghanistan and Pakistan for years since 2012, and had not just entered Pakistan the day they were rescued, as the Pakistan military claims.

“Right now everybody’s shunting blame and making claims,” Coleman told The Toronto Star. “Pakistan says, no they were never in Pakistan, until the end. The U.S. says, no they were always in Pakistan; it was Pakistan’s responsibility. But neither of those are true.”

Coleman is certain they were held in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. She adds that claims made by Islamabad and Washington that they were rescued Oct. 11 after crossing the border are false.

“We were not crossing into Pakistan that day,” Coleman said. “We had been in Pakistan for more than a year at that point.”

Coleman said they had been held in a Pakistan house since November 2016 until two days before they were rescued. They were put in the trunk of a car while a car chase and gunfight broke out, she told the Star.

Coleman said they did not know Pakistani forces were there to help and remembers her initial reaction when she realized they were going to be free.

“I think I was mostly just in shock.”

For more of Caitlan Coleman’s interview, visit The Toronto Star.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.