Pentagon reports seven Afghan trainees have gone missing from U.S. bases

by WorldTribune Staff, September 27, 2016

A group of Afghan nationals undergoing military training in the U.S. went missing this month, including three who went AWOL the weekend of an Afghan-born terrorist’s bombing spree in New York and New Jersey.

“During the month of September, seven Afghan students were considered absent without leave (AWOL) during international military student programs,” Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Patrick L. Evans said.

Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. /AP
Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. /AP

Three of the Afghan trainees fled from a Pentagon training program the same weekend terror suspect Ahmad Rahami planted bombs in New York and New Jersey, “raising concerns among security officials that the missing Afghan students may be linked to terrorism or plans for attacks in the United States,” a report by Bill Gertz in the Washington Free Beacon said.

An Army source said the Afghans who left the weekend of the New York area bombings appeared to be part of a coordinated effort. The three men are being investigated for possible connections to Rahami. “Initial assessment is that there is not relation and the timing is coincidental,” a source told Free Beacon.

Two of the AWOL Afghans were undergoing training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and one was training at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

Sarah Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service, said authorities are pursuing the Afghans.

“ICE Homeland Security Investigations is aware of the situation, and is actively working to locate these individuals in coordination with the State Department and the Department of Defense,” she said, declining specifics because of the ongoing investigation.

Over the Labor Day weekend, four Afghan trainees in the U.S. went AWOL, two from Fort Benning, Georgia, one from Fort Lee, Virginia, and one from an Army facility in Little Rock, Arkansas.

A defense official said that two of the Afghans were accounted for and suggested the two men may have fled the United States.