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Fourth Ethiopian athlete missing after track event found safe

By Victoria Cavaliere

SEATTLE (Reuters) - The last of four Ethiopian athletes, who came to the United States for a track meet in Oregon and then failed to fly home with teammates, has been located and is safe after disappearing in a possible asylum bid, authorities said on Wednesday.

Zeyituna Mohammed, 18, was found staying at the home of an acquaintance in neighboring Washington state, according to the University of Oregon Police Department. 

She was the last of four Ethiopian athletes to be located after slipping away from teammates on Saturday during the International Association of Athletics Federations World Junior Championships, hosted at the university in Eugene.

The other three, two 18-year-old women and a 17-year-old boy, were found safe in Beaverton, Oregon, on Monday after they missed departing for their home country with the rest of the track team, said university police spokesman Kelly McIver.

"The four athletes reportedly had left the area by choice with an acquaintance, but police needed to positively confirm the athletes' safety," McIver said.

Investigators searching for the missing four have said they were considering the possibility the young adults were making a bid for asylum or seeking to otherwise stay in the country.

Any possible application for asylum would be made with federal immigration services, said Andrew Munoz, a spokesman with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

He added that bids for asylum are not released to the public and can only be disclosed with consent from the individual seeking to stay in the country.

Ethiopia is one of the world's poorest countries and has been accused by rights campaigners and the political opposition of stifling dissent and torturing political detainees.

The four Ethiopians still had valid travel visas, and once their safety was ensured, they were on their own to pursue asylum or arrange travel home, university police said.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Sandra Maler)

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