Developing

Parents Appeal For Couple Missing In Afghanistan

The family of a pregnant woman who vanished in Afghanistan with her husband have appealed for the couple's safe return.

Caitlan Coleman, 27, is due to give birth in January and needs urgent medical attention for a liver condition, according to her father James.

He and his wife Lyn last heard from their son-in-law Josh on October 8 when he made contact from an internet cafe in Afghanistan.

Caitlan, who is American, and Josh, from Canada, embarked on their trip last July - travelling to Russia, then Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and then finally to Afghanistan.

Since their disappearance, no one has claimed they are holding the couple - who met online and married in 2011 - and no ransom demand has been made.

It is not known if they are still alive or how and why they entered Afghanistan. There is also no information about what they were doing there before they vanished.

Afghan officials say their trail has gone dead.

The families have kept quiet about the mystery since October but have now broken their silence in the hope it could lead to a breakthrough.

Mr Coleman, from Pennsylvania, said: "Our goal is to get them back safely and healthy. I don't know what kind of care they're getting or not getting,

"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 earlier this month.

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

He suggested that his daughter and her husband may have been trying to help Afghans by joining an aid group after touring the region.

He described his daughter as "naive" and "adventuresome" with a humanitarian bent.

In his last email in October, Josh did not give their exact location but said they were not in a safe place.

The last withdrawals from the couple's account were made on October 8 and 9 in Kabul but there has been no activity since then.                                   

"He just said they were heading into the mountains - wherever that was, I don't know," Mr Coleman said. "They're both kind of naive, always have been in my view.

"Why they actually went to Afghanistan, I'm not sure. I assume it was more of the same, getting to know the local people, if they could find an NGO (non-governmental organisation) or someone they could work with in a little way."

The US State Department and Canadian Foreign Affairs Ministry are both looking into the disappearance.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Chrystiane Roy called it a "possible kidnap" and said it was "pursuing all appropriate channels".

It was not known whether the silence over the case by US and Canadian officials and, until now, by the Coleman family was because of on-going negotiations to seek their release.

Information blackouts have kept some similar past cases quiet in an attempt to not further endanger those missing.

According to Hazrat Janan, the head of the provincial council in Afghanistan's Wardak province, the two were abducted in Wardak in an area about 25 miles (40 km) west of the capital Kabul.

They were passing through Wardak while travelling from Ghazni province south of Kabul to the capital.

Wardak province, despite its proximity to Kabul, is a rugged, mountainous haven for the Taliban and dangerous for foreigners travelling without military escorts.

Mr Janan said it was suspected that the kidnappers were Taliban because criminal gangs would have likely asked for a ransom.

His information cannot be independently verified, and US and Canadian officials still do not say for certain that the couple were abducted.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the Associated Press two months ago that no one from the group was involved.

"We do not know about these two foreigners," he said in a telephone interview.