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FILE PHOTO A still image from a video posted by the Taliban on social media on December 19, 2016 shows American Caitlan Coleman (L) speaking next to her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle and their two sons. Courtesy Taliban/Social media via REUTERS/File Photo(reuters_tickers)
By Jibran Ahmad
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - A Taliban spokesman denied on Sunday accusations by a Canadian man that one of his children had been murdered and his wife raped while they were being held captive by militants who kidnapped them in Afghanistan in 2012.
Joshua Boyle and his American wife, Caitlan Coleman, were held by the Haqqani network, a semi-independent wing of the Afghan Taliban, before being rescued by Pakistani troops in northwest Pakistan, near the Afghan border, last week.
Boyle told reporters soon after he, his wife and their three children returned to Canada on Friday that their captors had murdered a fourth child had raped his wife.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid rejected that as propaganda by the Western governments that helped rescue the family.
"We strongly reject these fake and fabricated allegations of this Canadian family, now in the hands of the enemy," he said in a statement sent to media.
"Whatever statement the enemy wants to put in their mouth, the family is forced to make it."
Boyle called on the Taliban to "provide my family with the justice we deserve".
Mujahid said the couple was intentionally never separated in order to protect their safety.
He also denied that their child had been murdered, but acknowledged that one child became sick and died.
"We were in a remote areas without access to a doctor and medications that led the loss of the child," he said.
Three children, all born in captivity, were rescued along with Boyle and Coleman.
The U.S. government calls the Haqqani network "the most lethal and sophisticated insurgent group" in Afghanistan.
Its operational chief, Sirajuddin Haqqani, was named deputy to the Taliban's newly appointed leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour in 2015, cementing the ties between the groups.
The Haqqanis previously held U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed in a swap for Taliban prisoners in 2014, and are suspected of holding two professors, an American and an Australian, who were kidnapped outside their university in Kabul in 2016.
A senior Afghan government official told Reuters that American and Afghan special forces launched two unsuccessful raids to try to rescue the professors in Afghanistan, but officials now believe the pair has been taken to Haqqani hideouts over the border in Pakistan.
(Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Robert Birsel)