The Pakistan Army says it has recovered a Canadian, his US National wife and their three children from "terrorist custody" after receiving intelligence from US officials.

File video shows US citizen Caitlan Coleman and Canadian citizen Joshua Boyle while in captivity along with their two toddlers and speaking to the camera to implore for their release. (Reuters screengrab)
File video shows US citizen Caitlan Coleman and Canadian citizen Joshua Boyle while in captivity along with their two toddlers and speaking to the camera to implore for their release. (Reuters screengrab) ( Reuters )

An American-Canadian couple and their three children who had been held hostage by the Afghan Taliban has been freed following an operation along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, the Pakistan Army said on Thursday.

The couple refused to immediately board a US-bound jet over concerns about the husband's past links to a former Guantanamo Bay inmate.

The hostages are "safe and sound and are being repatriated to the country of their origin," the military statement said, after the rescue in Kurram tribal agency, one of seven semi-autonomous tribal areas along the Afghan border. 

"Pak Army recovered 5 Western hostages including 1 Canadian, his US National wife and their three children from terrorist custody," it said of the operation, which was launched after Pakistani authorities received intelligence from US officials. 

TRT World's Alexi Noelle has more from Washington.

The statement did not name the family, but Canadian Joshua Boyle and his American wife Caitlan Coleman were kidnapped by the Afghan Taliban during a backpacking trip in Afghanistan 2012.

Coleman was pregnant at the time.

Thursday's statement from the Pakistani army was the first mention of a third child.

The rescue came as Pakistan and the United States, uneasy allies in fighting Taliban and other militant groups in the region, are experiencing one of the worst lows in relations.

Pakistan touted the success of the operation as proof of the strength of the alliance.

"The success underscores the importance of timely intelligence sharing and Pakistan's continued commitment towards fighting this menace through cooperation between two forces against a common enemy," the Pakistan Army statement said. 

US intelligence agencies had been tracking the hostages and on Wednesday shared that the family had been moved across to Pakistan through the Kurram tribal area border, the army said. 

A US military official said American forces were not involved in any rescue, but that a medical team had been able to meet the family and stood ready to fly them home if needed.

US President Donald Trump said the "release of the US-Canadian family from a Taliban-linked group is a positive development for our country's relationship with Pakistan," according to a White House statement.

Another military official told AFP the couple was hesitating to board a US military jet in Pakistan over the Canadian husband's concerns he could face American scrutiny for links to a former Guantanamo captive. 

In 2009, Boyle was briefly married to Zaynab Khadr, the sister of Canadian-born Omar Khadr who spent a decade at Guantanamo. But the official said Boyle did not risk any US repercussions. 

"It is not in our intention to do anything like that. We are prepared to bring them back home," the official said.

The last known footage of Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman surfaced in December last year when they appeared in video urging their governments to secure their release. 

They were pictured holding their two young sons, who had been born while they were in captivity. 

It was not clear when the video was shot, but it was released after rumours swirled in Kabul that the government was planning to execute Anas Haqqani, son of the Taliban-allied Haqqani network's founder, who has been held since 2014.

The Haqqani network has been accused of masterminding several high-profile terrorist attacks in the Afghan capital and have been known to kidnap Western hostages and smuggle them across the border into Pakistan. 

The Kurram tribal agency borders Nangarhar and Paktia provinces in Afghanistan. 

Both are riven by militancy, with Daesh gaining a foothold in Nangarhar and Paktia seen as a Haqqani stronghold.

Afghanistan is rife with militants and organised criminal gangs who stage kidnappings for ransom, often targeting foreigners and wealthy Afghans, who are said to have been ferried over the border into Pakistan's tribal belt.

The Afghan Taliban are also believed to be holding American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weekes, both professors at the American University of Afghanistan, who were dragged from their vehicles in Kabul by armed men in August last year.

US Special Operations forces conducted a secret raid authorised by then-president Barack Obama to rescue them, but the hostages were not there, the Pentagon said at the time. 

They most recently appeared in a hostage video released in June this year.

Source: AFP