CAMP EDWARDS (CBS/AP) – The three Afghanistan National Army officers who went missing during a training exercise at a Cape Cod military base on Saturday were located Monday afternoon near the Canadian border.
Just after 1 p.m., WBZ-TV’s Lauren Leamanczyk reported that the three soldiers were taken into custody attempting to cross the Canadian border. They were transferred to U.S. custody Monday night.
Massachusetts state police were notified Monday morning that the three were being questioned by federal authorities at Rainbow Bridge, which connects Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Niagara Falls, Ontario, said spokesman David Procopio, who did not have further details.
U.S. military officials said the Afghan soldiers had been participating in a U.S. Central Command Regional Cooperation training exercise in peacekeeping 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, an off day for the program.
The soldiers were reporting missing by base security personnel on Saturday night. They were identified as Maj. Jan Mohammad Arash, Capt. Mohammad Nasir Askarzada and Capt. Noorullah Aminyar.
The State Department, Central Command, Massachusetts State Police and local police were involved in the search for the soldiers.
The soldiers, who are in the country on visas, were at the mall at a chaperoned event to introduce them to American culture, according to a CentCom official, when they disappeared.
Pentagon officials told CBS News the officers were not required to surrender their passports, so they could still have them. Local law enforcement officials were given photos of the soldiers.
Procopio said state police considered the soldiers disappearance to be a missing persons case, because there was no information that any crimes had been committed.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Kim Tunnicliffe reports
The Afghan soldiers posed no threat to the public, military officials said.
Gov. Deval Patrick said earlier Monday he learned about the three Afghan soldiers about an hour after they were missing at check-in time. The governor told WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager he was not concerned the soldiers pose a threat.
“They were vetted by the military and cleared by the military in coming here,” he said. “I’m not going to jump to conclusions.”
Patrick had said there was a lot of speculation within the military that the three soldiers were trying to defect.
WBZ-TV security analyst Ed Davis commented Sunday that past incidents with other Afghan soldiers were likely being considered by authorities during the search.
“The only cause for concern is the fact that there have been Afghan soldiers who have turned on their United States counterparts and I’m sure that is uppermost in the minds of the people who are doing the investigation,” Davis said.
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., wraps up Wednesday. There are about a dozen more Afghan soldiers still participating in the exercise. Military officials from Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia are also participants.
Earlier this month, two Afghan police officers who were training with the DEA vanished while on a trip to Washington. The police officers were located and will return to Afghanistan.
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