U.S. officials say no threat posed by two missing Afghan trainees in Georgia

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 09, 2015 3:22 PM

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A search for two military trainees from Afghanistan who failed to report for duty this week at a Georgia military base continued on Wednesday, as officials urged calm among area residents concerned over their whereabouts.

Local and military officials stressed that the two men, who are being trained by the U.S. military and have not been named, pose no known threat to the public. The reason the men might have left Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta was not known.

"We've been taking a bunch of calls because citizens are concerned, given all that’s happening in the world," said Lieutenant Stryde Jones of the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office. "But we're told that there is absolutely no risk to the public.”

The two Afghan air force students failed to show up for duty on Monday at their regular maintenance training at the base near the border with Florida, an Air Force spokesman said in a statement. They are part of a group of foreign trainees assigned to the 81st Fighter Squadron.

The two men have been working there since February and were fully screened before arriving in the United States more than a year ago, according to the military release.

Jones said some people are on edge after the massacre last week in San Bernardino, California, where a shooting by a married couple that killed 14 people at an office holiday party is being investigated as an act of terrorism.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Scott Dutton said his office was aware of the missing Afghan nationals.

“But everything we’ve been told is that there are no concerns for public safety,” Dutton said. “They just want the men back.”

In January, a soldier in the Afghanistan army who went missing during a training exercise at a U.S. military base in Massachusetts was granted asylum by the United States.

The soldier was one of three Afghans who turned themselves in at a Canadian border crossing in New York state in 2014 after disappearing from an exercise, provoking a search by military officials and state police.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Leslie Adler)