Five athletes from conflict-hit Cameroon have gone missing from the Commonwealth Games in Australia, team officials said Wednesday.
Three weightlifters and two boxers have not been seen since Tuesday, triggering suspicion they had fled with no intention of returning home. The matter has been reported to Australian police.
Cameroon press attache Simon Molombe told AFP that he was shocked to learn weightlifters Olivier Matam Matam, Arcangeline Fouodji and Petit Minkoumba, along with boxers Christian Ndzie Tsoye and Simplice Fotsala, had apparently fled.
“It came as a complete surprise,” he said. “We have no idea where they are. There were no worries this kind of thing might happen.
“Their team-mates informed us they had left,” he added. “We are cooperating with the police. We are praying this doesn’t happen again and doing everything we can to make sure it doesn’t.”
Commonwealth Games organisers called for competitors to respect the law, mindful of the fact that more than 100 athletes overstayed their visas at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
“We would appreciate them sticking within the law, enjoying themselves, but sticking within the law,” organising committee boss Peter Beattie told reporters.
“That includes Cameroon and any other athletes. And if they are thinking of doing anything other, I would encourage them not to.”
Before the Games opened on April 4, Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton warned that athletes would be closely monitored to ensure they did not overstay their visas and that they returned home after competition ended.
Cameroon, in central Africa, is suffering from civil unrest after a military crackdown on English-speaking separatists.