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Homeland Security Takes Over Search For Missing Afghan Trainees

Airmen prepare for a parachute jump at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia in this 2009 photo.
Brittany Barker
UPI /Landov
Airmen prepare for a parachute jump at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia in this 2009 photo.

The Department of Homeland Security has taken the lead in the search for two Afghan men who went missing while training with the U.S. military at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.

Air Force officials have said the men were screened before entering the U.S. and that there's no evidence they pose a threat, and Air Force Lt. Col. Chris Karns said Homeland Security is coordinating with the U.S. State Department in efforts to locate them, according to The Associated Press. The men's names have not been released.

"Various terrorist organizations or groups or nefarious groups in their country would seek to inflict harm on them," Karns is quoted as saying by the news service. "They're in the U.S. because it's a safer environment to conduct training and by providing their name and image it potentially introduces unnecessary risk to them and their families."

The men, who had been training at the base since February, reportedly did not show up on Monday for maintenance training with the 81st Fighter Squadron. Karns told The New York Times that the last contact with the trainees was Friday, before they likely left the base on the weekend in accordance with training rules. The men went missing just days before they were scheduled to graduate and return to Afghanistan, the newspaper adds.

"In light of everything going on in the world today, we want to make sure no one jumps to any unfair or misinformed conclusions," Karns said.

The Times reports that "military officials have said that it is not uncommon for officers visiting from countries where life is hard to get a glimpse of American life and go absent without leave."

In fact, on Sept. 20, 2014, three Afghan army officers disappeared from a Massachusetts military base while participating in a training exercise, the AP says. They were detained two days later by Canadian border guards as they tried to enter Canada.

Though few details about the search has been disclosed, the airport manager of Valdosta Regional Airport, about 15 miles from the base, told the AP that authorities downloaded video from the surveillance cameras.

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