An abortion brought on by poisonous doses of estrogen. Giving birth secretly by flashlight. Cowering in the trunk of a kidnapper's car while a gunfight raged outside.
These were some of the harrowing details of captivity shared by Caitlan Coleman in her first wide-ranging interview since she and her husband were rescued after five years as prisoners of an Afghan insurgent group.
Coleman, 31, spoke with The Toronto Star about her family's life since she and her husband, Joshua Boyle, 34, were kidnapped in 2012 by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network. They were rescued on Oct. 11 by military forces in Pakistan.
During their time in captivity, the Pennsylvania woman gave birth to two sons ages 4 and 2 as well as a girl who is now 6 months old. Coleman addressed criticism that it was reckless to travel to Afghanistan when she was pregnant with their first child and then to get pregnant three more times in captivity.
"It was a decision we made,'' she told The Toronto Star in an interview at a hospital in Ottawa. "We did think about it and talk about it and it’s difficult to explain all the reasons, but, for me, a large part was the fact that it has always been important to me to have a large family.
"This took our life away from us — this captivity with no end in sight. And so I felt that it was our best choice at that time. We didn’t know if we would have that opportunity when we came back. We didn’t know how long it would be. It was already unprecedented, so we couldn’t say, 'Oh we’ll only be here a year or six months.' ''
Boyle, who said they went to Afghanistan to provide aid in the war-torn country, had previously claimed that they had an infant daughter who was killed in captivity.
However, Coleman now says it was a "forced abortion" that occurred sometime during 2014 or 2015 in retaliation for Boyle refusing to join the Haqqani network.
She claimed the kidnappers boasted about killing their infant girl, whom they named Martyr.
"They were very angry because Joshua had been asked to join them, to work for them, and he said no," she said. "They killed her by dosing the food. They put massive doses of estrogen in the food."
Some birth control pills and some hormone replacement therapy pills contain estrogen, but it’s unclear how the kidnappers could have obtained the hormone or in what form. Ten to 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to Mayo Clinic, and the cause is usually unknown.
The Taliban said in a statement last week that Coleman's account wasn't true and that she'd miscarried on her own.
Following Martyr's death, Coleman kept the pregnancies of her youngest son and daughter a secret, giving birth to both of them by flashlight as she tried to stifle any cries of pain.
Coleman also disputed claims by the U.S. and Pakistani governments that they were rescued while crossing into Pakistan from Afghanistan.
"We were not crossing into Pakistan that day,'' she said. "We had been in Pakistan for more than a year at that point.
"Right now everybody's shunting blame and making claims. Pakistan says, no they were never in Pakistan, until the end," She told The Star. "The U.S. says, no they were always in Pakistan; it was Pakistan's responsibility. But neither of those are true."
On the day they were rescued, Coleman said they were put in the trunk of a kidnapper's car and then eventually freed following a car chase and a gun battle.
"You're a prisoner for so long, you're so suspicious,'' she said. "I was still thinking we don't know these people, we don't know where they're taking us."
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