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US-Canadian couple held in Afghanistan, kept in Pakistan: CIA chief

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AT Monitoring Desk-KABUL: Contrary to Pakistan army claims, the CIA Chief has said that the US-Canadian couple kidnapped by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, but they were held inside Pakistan for five years before being freed.

CIA Chief’s remark has been doing round in media while it is for the first time a US official has publicly stated that the couple and their children spent their captivity in Pakistan, not in Afghanistan.

While addressing the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank in Washington, CIA Chief, Mike Pompeo said that they had a great outcome last week when four US nationals who had been held for five years inside Pakistan were successfully rescued.

Prior to this, Pakistan army and government made a claim that the US-Canadian couple and their children were rescued shortly after entering Pakistan from Afghanistan. The couple was kidnapped in 2012 in Afghanistan and their children were born in captivity.

The CIA chief’s remarks comes at a time when the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has scheduled visit to Pakistan next week, who said on Wednesday the United States expected Pakistan “to take decisive and meaningful action against terrorist groups on its soil.”

Moreover, US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity have previously said there was no indication the kidnapped US-Canadian hostages had been in Afghanistan before they were freed. According to the official, the US believed the kidnapped couple and their children were held by the notorious Haqqani network in or near its headquarters in the northwest Pakistan the entire time.

Regarded as the most frightening and effective Taliban ally, the Haqqani network enjoys supports from a large number of elements of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s powerful military-run intelligence agency, US officials said, but Pakistan denies it.

“We see this as a first step and we hope that we can build on it,” said the official, adding that Washington is “very frustrated that Taliban and Haqqani militants continue to fine sanctuaries in Pakistan.” It’s the freedom of movement; it’s the ability to transport weapons and materials, the ability to raise funds. This is what makes a sanctuary, the official noted.

A senior Pakistani security source said last Friday that Pakistani troops and intelligence operatives, acting on a US intelligence tip launched a raid on a vehicle carrying the hostages as they were being moved into the Kurram tribal region.

After release of the family, Pakistani officials emphasized on the importance of cooperation and intelligence sharing by the Washington which has threatened to cut military aid and take other punitive measures against Pakistan.

Punitive measures against Pakistan could include further cuts in US assistance and further sanctions would be imposed on Pakistan due to its widely links with the terrorist groups.