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'Kafkaesque nightmare' for York County woman held by Taliban

Written by Gordon Rago/York Daily Record | Dec 22, 2016 3:22 AM
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Caitlan Coleman, left, appears in a video alongside her husband, Joshua Boyle, and two children. Coleman, of York County, and Boyle were captured in 2012 while in northern Afghanistan. They are believed to be held by the Haqqani network, a Taliban faction.(Photo: Submitted)

Caitlan Coleman, of Stewartstown, was captured in 2012 in Afghanistan and appeared in a video this week with her husband and two children in captivity

(Stewartstown) -- The U.S. Department of State has reiterated its call for the release of a York County woman and her family who have been held in captivity by the Taliban for more than four years.

"We never stop working through diplomatic channels to secure the release of Americans that are being wrongly held by groups overseas," John Kirby, a State Department spokesman, told reporters during a daily press briefing on Tuesday. "We've not stopped focusing on this particular case, and we're not going to stop focusing on this."

The U.S. Department of State has reiterated its call for the release of a York County woman and her family who have been held in captivity by the Taliban for more than four years.

Kirby's comments came a day after Caitlan Coleman appeared in a newly released video, which Reuters confirmed was released by the Taliban.

Coleman, of Stewartstown, dressed in black garb, spoke slowly and appeared to be looking down and reading from something. Her husband, Joshua Boyle, a Canadian citizen, and their two young sons sat next to her.

"We have waited since 2012 for somebody to understand our problems, the Kakfaesque nightmare in which we find ourselves," Coleman says into the camera, her two children fidgeting quietly in the lap of her husband next to her.

"But we can only ask and pray that somebody will recognize the atrocities these men carry out against us as so-called retaliation in their ingratitude and hypocrisy," she said.

Coleman made direct pleas to President Barack Obama, saying their release could help "save face" in his final days in office.

Kirby said his department had seen the video, which was made public Monday. He said the government remains "gravely concerned about the family's welfare" and described it as "reprehensible" that their captors would include the children in the recording.

Coleman was pregnant when she and Boyle were captured in 2012. The couple set off in the summer for a journey that took them to Russia, the central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and then to Afghanistan. Coleman's parents, Jim and Lyn, last heard from their son-in-law on Oct. 8, 2012, from an internet cafe in what Josh described as an "unsafe" part of Afghanistan.

Last November, Jim and Lyn Coleman received a letter from Caitlan, according to the online news service Circa News. "I pray to hear from you again, to hear how everybody is doing," the letter said. Caitlan also wrote that she had given birth to a second child in captivity.

Her parents then pleaded for the release of their family members. Lyn Coleman told Circa News: "I really need to see my grandsons. I imagine them all the time, I imagine them and Caity all the time. ... Every day is so hard, every day is so hard to get through."

Monday's video is the first time the children have been seen publicly and offers some level of relief for those who know the York County native.

Coleman's parents said in an interview with ABC News that they were pleased to see their family on the video. They also expressed hope they had with the government.

"I do believe that either the President will get her home before he leaves or will set in motion a process that the next president can do it," Jim Coleman said in the interview.

In an interview Tuesday, one of Coleman's close childhood friends said she had mixed feelings after seeing the video.

"It's a relief to see that they seem healthy," friend Sarah Flood said Tuesday night during a brief phone interview. "But I don't know if it makes it better or harder. Like before...I knew she had two kids, but you've never seen them. Now it's really real."

Flood, 30, was 9 when she first became friends with Coleman -- they met at the YMCA in Shrewsbury. Flood last saw Coleman right before she and her husband left for their 2012 trip. Flood had just been on a trip to Kiev, Ukraine, so the two met at a local sandwich shop to compare notes about travels.

Flood does not recall Afghanistan being on Coleman's itinerary, but said she was excited about experiencing other cultures and talked that day how she disagreed with negative views she had heard about Islamic-majority countries.

"She was just very, 'they're not like that,'" Flood said.

Flood acknowledged negative comments people have made about Coleman since her capture -- that the government shouldn't do anything to get her back or that she deserves what happened to her. Flood said that there might be a certain stigma to Coleman and her family being held in captivity because they were in Afghanistan on their own volition.

"I understand why people are angry," she said, but, she continued, "No one deserves to be imprisoned by the Taliban for going on vacation...or because they have a faith in humanity."

"I just want her to come home," Flood said. "I want to hug her and tell her I love her."

Kirby did not elaborate on details surrounding the efforts to reach a resolution in this particular case. He did say the U.S. government has remained in regular contact with Coleman's parents.

"We want to see them all home," Kirby said. "We want to see them all safely returned and I can assure you this administration will continue to work very, very hard to see that outcome."

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record.

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