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The families have not received any ransom demands and there are no clear signs of motive for their being held, but officials say the mere fact they were Westerners in hostile territory may have been reason enough.
Joshua Boyle was previously married to the sister of Omar Khadr, a Canadian man who spent 10 years at Guantanamo Bay after being captured in 2002 in a firefight at an al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan, but U.S. officials discount any link between that previous family tie and his capture. One called it a mere coincidence.
Two U.S. law enforcement officials described the investigation, speaking only on condition of anonymity because the probe is still underway.
The videos, each under two minutes long and featuring the couple seated in spare settings before cloth-draped backgrounds, contain no apparent clues — such as distinctive ethnic music — that might help investigators identify captors or locale. The video files do contain time stamps — one says May 20, 2013, the other Aug. 20, 2013 — but officials say those notations can easily be manipulated.
U.S. officials say the videos, in their low quality and lack of detail, bear some similarities to those the Taliban released about Bergdahl. They caution that while the videos establish beyond doubt that the couple were captured, they do not qualify as proof of life since there's no mention of current events that could help establish the time.
In addition to calling for government help in the videos, the couple recites names of family members and contact information.
"Just seeing her and seeing her face and hearing her, while it was very difficult, it was also something that relieved a lot of ambiguous anxieties and the fears," said Coleman's mother, Lyn.
Even as they hold out hope, the couples fret for their children's safety and for a grandchild born into captivity in a foreign country.
"We love them," Lyn Coleman said, "and they're needed here. And we need to get them back home."