Washington: Three Afghan army officers who went missing during a training exercise at a US base have been found trying to cross the border into Canada, a Pentagon official has said.
The three soldiers disappeared on Saturday and were identified as they attempted to enter Canadian territory near Niagara Falls, the US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said yesterday.
Their bid to cross into Canada suggested the officers could be seeking asylum status. US officials declined to provide further details and referred questions to Canada's border authorities.
The three from the Afghan National Army (ANA) had been last seen Saturday at a mall in Hyannis, Massachusetts, where they were on an outing with fellow Afghan troops, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren told reporters earlier.
It was the second time in a week that Afghan soldiers attending a course in the United States went missing.
A week ago, two training at the Quantico base in Virginia were unaccounted for until they were located two days later in the Georgetown district of Washington DC.
The three ANA officers who disappeared Saturday were taking part in "Exercise Regional Cooperation 2014," a drill sponsored by US Central Command (Centcom), which oversees American forces in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
The exercise, which involves officers from six countries, was scheduled to run September 17-24. The course is conducted indoors as a "table-top" drill that requires officers to rehearse how they would respond to various simulated scenarios.
Before being allowed to attend the training, the Afghans were thoroughly vetted by government agencies, including the US embassy in Kabul and American forces in Afghanistan, according to Warren.
NATO's US-led force in Afghanistan has had to beef up security in recent years after a series of insider attacks, with Afghan soldiers turning their guns on their US and NATO partners.
The three officers who went missing at the weekend were part of a group of 14 Afghans attending the training.
"These things have happened in the past," said Warren.
In the case earlier this month involving two Afghans on a Homeland Security Department exercise, the duo "were missing for a couple of days," he said.