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Eritrean Football Team Vanishes in Uganda

Most of Eritrea's national football team has disappeared in Uganda, raising suspicion the players are seeking to defect.

Seventeen players and a team physician vanished Sunday in the capital, Kampala, where the team had gone to play in a regional tournament.

Nicola Musonye, secretary-general of the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations, confirmed the disappearance to VOA's Horn of Africa Service on Monday.

The head of the Eritrean delegation says the 18 went missing from their hotel and that he has reported this to local police.

Radio France International quotes an unidentified player as saying the players and doctor are in hiding while the Eritrean embassy tries to find them.

Human rights groups frequently criticize Eritrea as one of the world's most secretive and repressive societies, and the country's athletes have used international competitions to flee their homeland in the past.

In one example, four Eritreans asked for political asylum in Britain after the summer Olympics this year.

Thirteen Eritrean football players requested asylum in Tanzania after a 2011 tournament, while 12 members of the national team sought asylum in Kenya in 2009.