Freed years after being taken hostage in Afghanistan, Canadian Joshua Boyle, his American wife and their three children are back in Canada to "the first true 'home' that the children have ever known," after Boyle condemned his captors for raping his wife and authorizing "the murder of my infant daughter."
The family's flight from London touched down before midnight Friday night at Toronto's Pearson airport, where Boyle told reporters he wants to build a "secure sanctuary" for their three children.
Overnight, the family arrived in Smiths Falls, Ont., where Joshua Boyle's parents live. Prior to the abduction, Boyle and his wife had been living in Perth-Andover, N.B.
In a statement emailed to CBC's Susan Ormiston on Saturday, Joshua Boyle said the family had "reached the first true 'home' that the children have ever known after they spent most of Friday asking if each subsequent airport was our new house hopefully."
Boyle and Caitlan Coleman were abducted five years ago while on a backpacking trip in Afghanistan, and were being held by the Haqqani network.
Coleman was pregnant with their first child, a boy, when the couple were captured by theTaliban-linked militant group. Another boy and a girl were born while the family was being held hostage.
Boyle, after arriving at Pearson airport, spoke in a statement for the first time about another daughter that he says was killed by his captors.
Boyle said he travelled to the country to help "the most neglected minority group in the world, those ordinary villagers who live deep inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan."
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Boyle didn't provide specific details, but said the "stupidity and evil of the Haqqani network's kidnapping of a pilgrim and his heavily pregnant wife engaged in helping ordinary villagers in Taliban-controlled regions of Afghanistan was eclipsed only by the stupidity and evil of authorizing the murder of my infant daughter, martyr Boyle, as retaliation for my repeated refusal to accept an offer that the criminal miscreants of the Haqqani network had made to me."
He said he wants justice and won't allow the Haqqani network to weaken his family's commitment to "do the right thing, no matter the cost."
On the plane from London, Boyle provided a written statement to The Associated Press saying his family has "unparalleled resilience and determination."
Coleman sat in the aisle of the business class cabin wearing a tan-coloured head scarf. She nodded without saying a word when she confirmed her identity to an Associated Press reporter aboard the flight. In the two seats next to her were her two elder children. In the seat beyond that was Boyle, with their youngest child, a girl, in his lap. U.S. State Department officials were on the plane with them.
He nodded to one of the State Department officials and said, "Their interests are not my interests."
One of his children is in poor health and reportedly had to be force-fed by their Pakistani rescuers.
The email sent to Ormiston also said his infant daughter had a "cursory medical exam last night, and hospital staff were enthusiastically insistent that her chances seemed miraculously high based on a quick physical."
When he spoke at the Toronto airport late Friday, Boyle said he wanted to give his children a chance to build a home and "try to regain some portion of the childhood that they have lost."
Earlier Friday evening, Global Affairs Canada welcomed the family's return.
"Today, we join the Boyle family in rejoicing over the long-awaited return to Canada of their loved ones," the ministry said in a statement that asked for privacy for the family.
"Canada has been actively engaged on Mr. Boyle's case at all levels, and we will continue to support him and his family now that they have returned."
The dramatic rescue came to light Thursday, when Pakistan said it had rescued the family after the captors moved them across the border from Afghanistan.
Coleman is from Stewartstown, Pa. In an interview with ABC News on Friday, her father, Jim Coleman, said he is angry at Boyle for taking her to Afghanistan.
"Taking your pregnant wife to a very dangerous place, to me, and the kind of person I am, is unconscionable," he said.
Earlier, Patrick Boyle said the family was safe "but exhausted."
He told reporters his son had been hit by shrapnel during the events leading to their release, which reportedly involved dozens of Pakistani army members. Joshua Boyle suffered a leg injury as a result, his father said.
Boyle's mother told reporters on Thursday that the family is still facing "really tough times."
"They kept themselves strong for so long, for each other and for the kids," Linda Boyle said. "I think it's going to catch up with them, and they're probably going to have some real crashes, I expect, but we're here for them."
Rescue near Afghan-Pakistan border
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who has met with Joshua Boyle's parents in the past, said Thursday that their son and his family had endured an "absolutely horrible ordeal."
Freeland refused to describe the circumstances of the release, citing security reasons, but said Canada had been working with the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking in Mexico City where he was discussing trade talks, thanked U.S. and Pakistani officials for their efforts in freeing Boyle and his wife and children.
"We're pleased that the ordeal they've been through over these past years has finally come to an end," Trudeau said Thursday night during a news conference.
A security source told Reuters that the location of the family's eventual rescue was near the town of Kohat, some 60 kilometres inside Pakistan, along the northwestern border with Afghanistan.
Agents from Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence spy agency and soldiers attempted to intercept the vehicle the family was in, but it sped away, according to the security source.
"Our troops fired at the vehicle and burst its tires," the senior Pakistani security source told Reuters, declining to be identified because he is not authorized to speak openly to the media.
Boyle says captors 'pagans,' not Muslims
Pakistan's army released a video of Boyle to the media on Saturday that apparently was shot before the family arrived in Toronto. The circumstances under which the footage was taken is not yet entirely clear, but in it, Boyle praises the troops behind Thursday's rescue, saying they "got between the criminals and the car to make sure the prisoners were safe and my family was safe," and they carried out the operation with precision.
Speaking in Pakistan on his second day of freedom, he said the car ended up "riddled with bullets."
He also said his captors "did not even make a pretense of being Muslim," and were guided "by their own agendas."
"The criminals who held us, they were not good Muslims, they were not even bad Muslims, they were pagans," he said.
After the rescue, a change in itinerary was reportedly required, at the behest of Joshua Boyle.
Jim Coleman said Friday he didn't understand why, according to reports, Boyle didn't let his family leave on a U.S. military plane. Coleman said if he saw an American aircraft, he'd be "running for it."
Boyle's father said his son was philosophically opposed to an initial plan that would have involved the plane landing at Bagram, Afghanistan, where the U.S. has held detainees for years without charge during its battles against the Taliban and al-Qaeda militants.
The plane instead was routed to Islamabad, Pakistan. They later travelled to England before continuing on to Canada
On Friday, Boyle offered some details on the journey, saying different governments had offered to transport the family.
"I assure you, I have never refused to board any mode of transportation that would bring me closer to home, closer to Canada and back with my family."
Boyle was previously married to Zaynab Khadr, the sister of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr.