The three missing Afghanistan National Army soldiers who went missing on Cape Cod have been found trying to cross into Canada at the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls, a top Massachusetts law enforcement source tells NBC News.
Maj. Jan Mohammad Arash, Capt. Mohammad Nasir Askarzada and Capt. Noorullah Aminyar had managed to slip away unnoticed while on a "cultural exercise" to the Cape Cod Mall in Hyannis on Saturday night.
The three soldiers were trying to enter Canada when they were stopped by border officials.
Massachusetts State Police released a statement Monday afternoon, reminding the public that they had been assisting authorities with the investigation as a "missing persons case."
"MSP has no information that suggests the three men committed any crimes, and thus we would not have had any cause to detain them ourselves," explained spokesperson Dave Procopio in a statement.
Procopio added that the investigation is primarily under federal jurisdiction.
According to officials, the soldiers had been at Joint Base Cape Cod since Sept. 11. They were unarmed and were not considered a threat. It's not clear yet whether they will be returned to Cape Cod.
Gov. Deval Patrick said Monday that there was speculation that the soldiers may have been trying to defect.
U.S. military officials said the three officers were "thoroughly vetted" by the State Department, the American embassy in Kabul and U.S. military forces.
The soldiers were in Massachusetts for Regional Cooperation, a training exercise designed to promote cooperation between regional and foreign forces around the world. Training exercises like this have been held annually since 2004 to promote cooperation among forces. Eleven other Afghan soldiers were among the 200 participants from six nations including the U.S. The session wraps up Wednesday.
U.S. military officials told NBC News the training was a "command post exercise" that did not involve any weapons or actual maneuvers. The three soldiers were not armed with weapons at the time they disappeared.
Military officials said there have been numerous similar incidents over the years involving Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqis and other foreign military who came to the U.S. for training and slipped away in an effort to remain in the country.