Sierra Leone athletes arrested

2006-03-27 08:26
Sydney - Police near Sydney on Monday found and detained six runaway athletes from Sierra Leone's team to the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, while Cameroon revealed that nine members of its team were unaccounted for.

In all, 14 Sierra Leone athletes went missing from the Commonwealth Games village last week, apparently in hopes of remaining in Australia after the event closed on Sunday.

But police in the northern Sydney suburb of Harbord found six members of the team at a local home early on Monday.

"The three men and three women from the Sierra Leone team are believed to have been there for the past three nights," police said in a statement.

Authorities revoked the missing athletes' visas as of midnight and police said they would hold the six recovered runaways until immigration authorities could collect them.

Meanwhile the Cameroon team reported nine of its athletes missing just two hours before the Games' closing ceremony on Sunday night.

Their identities were not immediately released.

In addition to the athletes from the two west African nations, Tanzanian boxer Omari Idd Kimweri and Bangladeshi 400m runner Tawhidul Mohammad Islam have also been reported missing.

The Sierra Leone government strongly condemned the runaway athletes from that country's team, saying they had brought disgrace on their nation.

The runaways made up two-thirds of the poor country's 21-strong Commonwealth Games squad.

The missing were believed to be three members the women's 4x400m track relay team, two boxers, two cyclists, a weightlifter and six other members of the athletics team.

It was not the first time athletes from Sierra Leone have sought to avoid returning home following an international sporting event.

Twenty-one members out of a team of 30 failed to return to Sierra Leone following the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games.

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