KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) -- A Ugandan government official says 17 Eritrean soccer players and a team doctor have applied for political asylum after going missing during a regional tournament.

Musa Ecweru, Uganda's minister for disaster preparedness and refugees, said the applications were being considered by authorities.

Police had been searching for the Eritreans since they left their team hotel on Tuesday after losing in the east and central African CECAFA Cup. They didn't return home with the remainder of Eritrea's traveling party.

Eritreans have previously not returned home after competing in sports events abroad.

The entire Eritrea team sought refugee status at the 2009 CECAFA Cup in Kenya, while some Eritrean athletes went missing at the London Olympics.

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