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October 13, 2017

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Pakistan honours ‘do-more’ demand: Pak Army conducts operation on US tip-off

Pakistan honours ‘do-more’ demand: Pak Army conducts operation on US tip-off

RAWALPINDI: The Pakistan Army has recovered five Western hostages from the custody of terrorists through an intelligence-based operation and US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have praised Pakistan for its efforts and cooperation to help rescue the five hostages. The operation was based on actionable intelligence from the US authorities.

The terrorists shifted the hostages only on Wednesday (October 11) and they were recovered safely from terrorists’ custody by the Pakistani troops. “Pakistan Army has recovered five Western hostages including one Canadian, his US national wife and their three children from terrorists’ custody through an intelligence-based operation by Pakistan troops,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said on Thursday.

They were captured by terrorists from Afghanistan in 2012 and kept as hostages there. The ISPR said the US intelligence agencies had been tracking them and shared their shifting to Pakistan on October 11 (Wednesday) through the Kurram Agency border. It said that the operation by the Pakistani forces was successful as all the hostages were recovered safe and sound and were being repatriated to the country of their origin.

The ISPR said that the success underscores the importance of timely intelligence sharing and Pakistan’s continued commitment towards fighting this menace through cooperation between two forces against a common enemy.

Meanwhile, Director General ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor told a news channel that intelligence was shared with Pakistan Army at 4:00pm on Wednesday about the shifting of hostages by the Taliban from Afghanistan. He said the Pakistani troops successfully conducted an operation at 7:00pm and recovered the hostages from a vehicle in the Kurram Agency area.

He maintained that there was no concept of joint operation on Pakistan’s soil, rather it was a coordinated operation based on intelligence sharing. “It proves that cooperation would increase if there is intelligence sharing and the Americans have also acknowledged the same,” he said.

Pleading anonymity, a senior Pakistani security official said the Pakistan Army commandos and members of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) jointly conducted the operation. Pakistani security officials said the US intelligence agencies had been tracking the couple and their captors for some time and shared information about their shifting from Afghanistan to Pakistan on Thursday. There was no further information if the kidnappers were killed or taken into custody during the operation.

The Haqqani network, a feared militant faction of the Afghan Taliban, had claimed responsibility for kidnapping the couple in 2012 in Afghanistan’s Wardak province. The couple was reportedly travelling between Kabul and Kandahar when it fell into the Taliban hands. It is believed that initially the couple was held somewhere in Afghanistan and later shifted to the border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Taliban last year released a video of the Canadian Joshua Boyle and his American wife Caitlan Coleman along with their two young boys born in captivity. It was the first video in which their two sons were shown. The couple in their video statement appealed to their governments to secure their release from captivity. Neither the mainstream Afghan Taliban nor the Haqqani network was willing to comment on this dramatic release of the couple and their children.

Senior members of the Afghan Taliban, who closely handled the Western couple during their capacity, said the US citizen Caitlan Coleman was pregnant when the couple was seized in 2012. “The woman delivered her first child in captivity and our people offered her care and hospitality. We arranged all her medications at the time,” recalled one Taliban member. He claimed the couple later agreed to convert to Islam by their own choice.

Taliban sources said the families of the kidnapped couple had approached them for negotiations a few months ago and they were in the process of talks but couldn’t reach a conclusion.

According to the Taliban sources, the Haqqani network sent a list of its demands that included the release of some prisoners including three senior members and some ransom amount. “The three senior Taliban prisoners included the younger brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani and his maternal uncle,” said a senior Taliban member.

Sirajuddin Haqqani is the operational chief of the Haqqani network and is also the deputy leader of the Afghan Taliban movement, which is now headed by Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson praised Pakistan for its efforts and cooperation to help rescue five hostages from the Haqqani network. “This is a positive moment for our country’s relationship with Pakistan,” President Trump said adding, “The Pakistani government’s cooperation is a sign that it is honoring America’s wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region.”

President Trump, speaking to the media at the White House, thanked Pakistan and the Pakistani government. He also hoped to “see this type of cooperation and teamwork in helping secure the release of remaining hostages in our future joint counterterrorism operations.”

Trump announced the release of an American citizen, Caitlan Coleman, and her husband, a Canadian citizen, Joshua Boyle. The White House also issued a statement that said that the US government worked in conjunction with the Pakistani government to secure the release of these foreign nationals from captivity in Pakistan. It added that the family’s three children were born in captivity.

Secretary Rex Tillerson also lauded Pakistan’s efforts saying that the US expressed deep gratitude to the government of Pakistan and the Pakistani Army for their cooperation. “President Trump’s new South Asia strategy recognises the important role Pakistan needs to play to bring stability and ultimately peace to the region.”

The secretary further said, “The US is hopeful that Pakistan’s actions will further augment US-Pakistan relationship marked by growing commitments to counterterrorism operations and stronger ties in all other respects.” He also applauded the US ambassador in Pakistan, David Hale, and his team for its engagement with Pakistan.

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