PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) - Two of three Afghan students missing from an upstate New York college program have been heard from, but their whereabouts remain a mystery, a Department of State spokesman said Thursday.
Nazareth College, near Rochester, reported Feb. 6 that one of 20 Afghan students on campus for a four-week cultural exchange program had failed to report for classes. On Saturday, two more were reported missing.
The students are two 21-year-old women and a man.
The first student has since contacted her family to say she's safe, Department of State spokesman John Fleming said. Another has contacted the school through a lawyer, he said. The last student has not been heard from.
Authorities say they don't know what the students' intentions are and don't believe they are crime victims. Nor are the students considered dangerous, law enforcement and government officials said.
"They are very well-vetted and well-reviewed," Fleming said. "In general, they're college students who are successful in their studies who've shown a propensity to succeed."
The students were scheduled to return to Afghanistan around March 6 after completing a student leadership program overseen by the Department of State at Nazareth, an independent college on a suburban campus just southeast of Rochester. The session's focus was religious tolerance.
The exchange program is hosted by institutions throughout the United States. Since the program began in 2009, six of the previous 40 Afghan participants who have come to the U.S. have not returned home, Fleming said. The Department of State doesn't know what happened to them. Missing students are reported to the Department of Homeland Security.
Students are warned at the start of the program that their failure to comply with the rules could jeopardize future U.S. visa applications, officials said.
Nazareth College, founded in 1924, sits on 150 scenic acres in Pittsford, a town of about 30,000 residents. It has about 3,200 undergraduate and graduate students.
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