State Police: 3 Missing Afghan Soldiers in Custody

Bob Salsberg, ABC News, September 22, 2014

Three Afghanistan National Army officers who went missing during a training exercise at a Cape Cod military base were detained Monday at the U.S.-Canadian border, Massachusetts law enforcement officials said.

Massachusetts state police were notified that the three were being questioned by federal authorities at Rainbow Bridge, which connects Niagara Falls, New York, and Niagara Falls, Ontario, said spokesman David Procopio, who did not have further details.

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Military officials said the Afghan soldiers had been participating in a U.S. Central Command Regional Cooperation training exercise at Joint Base Cape Cod. They arrived at Camp Edwards on Sept. 11 and were last seen Saturday at the Cape Cod Mall in Hyannis during an off day.

The soldiers were reported missing by base security personnel Saturday night. They were identified as Maj. Jan Mohammad Arash, Capt. Mohammad Nasir Askarzada and Capt. Noorullah Aminyar.

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Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said earlier that 14 Afghans taking part in the Cape Cod military exercise were “thoroughly vetted” prior to coming to the U.S., so officials do not believe they are a threat.

The Regional Cooperation training exercises have been held annually since 2004 to promote cooperation and interoperability among forces, build functional capacity, practice peacekeeping operations and enhance readiness.

This year’s exercise, which involves more than 200 participants from six nations including the U.S., is scheduled to wrap up Wednesday. Military officials from Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia are also participants.

Procopio said state police considered it to be a missing persons case, because there was no information that any crimes had been committed.

On Thursday, two members of an elite Afghan police unit were picked up in the Buffalo, New York-area after going missing from a five-week training program they had been attending with 29 other police officers in Quantico, Virginia

Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said the police officers were being returned to Afghanistan on Monday. The rest of the class left as scheduled on Friday.

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“They were held and returned. They were not a security threat, not a danger. They were not armed. They were just looking for a better life,” Payne said.

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