Three Afghan soldiers who went AWOL from a Cape Cod, Massachusetts, military base were apprehended at a border crossing with Canada near Niagara Falls, New York, Monday, some 450 miles from where they went missing. The three soldiers, all officers, did not return from a Saturday-night visit to a mall in Hyannis to Camp Edwards in nearby Sandwich, where they were involved in joint training missions with U.S. military personnel.
The three officers were identified as Maj. Jan Mohammad Arash, Capt. Mohammad Nasir Askarzada and Capt. Noorullah Aminyar. They did not have access to weapons, but Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said earlier Monday there was "a lot of speculation within the military that they may be trying to defect.”
The three were part of a group of 200 or so soldiers from Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and the U.S. taking part in training at Camp Edwards where the U.S. military maintains a replica base meant to simulate operations in Iraq, Afghanistan or the Balkans. They are three of 15 soldiers from the Afghanistan National Army involved in exercises that end Wednesday.
The chaperoned mall visit was meant to introduce the soldiers to American culture, the Cape Cod Times reported. A spokesman for the U.S. Central Command said they did not break the law by being absent without leave. All soldiers participating in the exercises were approved by the U.S. Central Command and held visas similar to those held by foreign delegates.