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Three Afghan soldiers go missing in Massachusetts after mall trip

Posted at 1:54 PM, Sep 22, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-22 13:54:07-04

MASSACHUSETTS – Three Afghan National Army soldiers, who were in Massachusetts for training, have gone missing after a trip to a shopping mall, authorities said. It’s the second time in a week that Afghan security trainees in the United States have disappeared.

The three soldiers do not appear to pose any threat to the public, the Massachusetts National Guard said.

Also this month, two Afghan police officers training with the Drug Enforcement Administration went missing for six days.

Mohd Naweed Samimi, 24, and Mohammad Yasin Ataye, 22, went missing on September 13 while training in Quantico, Virginia. They were found on September 18 in Buffalo, New York, DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said.

The men, who Payne said were monitored by escorts at all times, never posed any threat or danger. They decided they wanted to stay in the United States, but authorities found them and sent them home.

The three men now missing in Massachusetts are Afghan National Army Soldiers Maj. Jan Mohammad Arash, Capt. Mohammad Nasir Askarzada and Capt. Noorullah Aminyar.

They arrived in the United States on September 11 for Exercise Regional Cooperation, an annual event, the Guard said, and were quartered at Joint Base Cape Cod. Base security reported the three missing late Saturday. They had last been seen at Cape Cod Mall in Hyannis.

“Base and exercise officials are working with local police and state authorities to locate the three Afghans,” the Guard said.

The purpose of the exercise is to train participating nations in “stability operations” and “operations conducted during United Nations mandated peacekeeping operations,” according to the Guard.

Roughly a dozen Afghan soldiers are still participating.

The Regional Cooperation exercise has taken place annually since 2004, according to the Massachusetts National Guard. Tajikistan is the lead nation for it this year. The last exercise was held in 2013, led by Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Defense.

Gen. Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, told CNN that the ministry is investigating both incidents.

CNN’s Dave Alsup and Mary Kay Mallonee contributed to this report.