Two African Runners Disappear From Jerusalem Marathon, Apparently Seeking to Stay in Israel

Both women, who were brought to Israel from Ethiopia for the race, are believed to be in hiding in south Tel Aviv.

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Two runners who were brought especially from Ethiopia to take part in last week's Jerusalem Marathon ran away from the race, apparently so they can remain in Israel. Both women are now believed to be in south Tel Aviv.

Municipal officials lodged a complaint with the Jerusalem police over the disappearance of the pair, Malet Mekonen, 24, and Mahalat Zalika, 25. They have not contacted the organizers since their disappearance.

The organizers, officials in the Jerusalem municipality, brought the two women to Israel for the race in keeping with the common practice in international races of bringing competitors from numerous countries. The two are not Olympic runners, but the organizers said they have taken part in international meets.

The organizers said they saw the pair at the starting line and documented them as having begun the race. But they noticed that the two women had not shown up at the finish line by the time all the other runners had crossed.

Concerned that they had been injured, the organizers first sent people out along the route of the race. But once they realized the women had not been hurt along the way, it became clear that they had left the route and made their way to the center of town.

Police now believe that they planned to abscond all along, and that they may have gone to south Tel Aviv. They left behind their passports and belongings, which are now in the organizers' possession, and abandoned the race with only the athletic clothes on their back. It is not known whether they have any money.

"We don't know much about them," one municipal official said. "We have all their documents and we have asked the police to help us locate them. We didn't know them from before. The whole situation is bizarre."

The Jerusalem District Police have launched an investigation and say the women are now considered to be in Israel illegally. The Tel Aviv District Police have been given information about them and are trying to locate them and discover why they ran away.

People running past a street performer at an entrance of the Old City, as they take part in the international Jerusalem Marathon on March 1, 2013. About 20,000 people took part in the annual event.Credit: Reuters

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