Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Missing couple's family speaks out

Pregnant woman lost in Afghanistan

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KABUL, Afghanistan -- The family of an ailing, pregnant American woman missing in Afghanistan with her Canadian husband has broken months of silence over the mysterious case, making public appeals for the couple's safe return.

James Coleman, the father of 27-year-old Caitlan Coleman, told The Associated Press over the weekend she was due to deliver in January and needed urgent medical attention for a liver ailment that required regular checkups. He said he and his wife, Lyn, last heard from their son-in-law, Josh, on Oct. 8 from an Internet café in what he described as an "unsafe" part of Afghanistan. The Colemans asked that Josh be identified by his first name only to protect his privacy.

The couple had embarked on a journey last July that took them to Russia, the central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and then finally to Afghanistan.

Neither the Taliban nor any other militant group has claimed it is holding the couple, leading some to believe they were kidnapped. But no ransom demand has been made.

An Afghan official said their trail has gone dead.

"Our goal is to get them back safely and healthy," the father told AP on Friday night by phone. "I don't know what kind of care they're getting or not getting," he added. "We're just an average family and we don't have connections with anybody and we don't have a lot of money."

He made a similar appeal in a video posted on YouTube on Dec. 13.

"We appeal to whoever is caring for her to show compassion and allow Caity, Josh and our unborn grandbaby to come home," he said.

Before the video came out, the family had kept quiet about the case since the couple disappeared in early October. They appear to have broken their silence in hopes it might lead to a breakthrough.

But many questions remain over the disappearances.

It is not known whether the couple are still alive or how or why they entered Afghanistan. And there is no information about what they were doing in the country before they went missing.

James Coleman, of York County, Penn., said he was not entirely sure what his daughter and her husband were doing in Afghanistan. But he surmised they may have been seeking to help Afghans by joining an aid group after touring the region.

In the AP interview, he described his daughter as "naive" and "adventuresome" with a humanitarian bent.

He said Josh did not disclose their exact location in his last email contact on Oct. 8 from the Internet café, only saying they were not in a safe place. James Coleman also said the last withdrawals from the couple's account were made Oct. 8 and 9 in Kabul with no activity on the account and no further communication from them after that date.

"He just said they were heading into the mountains -- wherever that was, I don't know," the father said. "I assume they were going to strike out on foot like they were doing" he said. "They're both kind of naive, always have been in my view. I don't really know why they went there," he added. "I assume it was more of the same, getting to know the local people, if they could find an NGO or someone they could work with in a little way."

There was some indication the couple knew they were in dangerous territory, though they perhaps did not grasp just how dangerous. James Coleman said in general, they preferred small villages and communities because they felt safer there than in big cities, and that is where they wanted to focus their travels.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 31, 2012 A12

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