Written by Staff Writer by Amy Lindberg, CNN
Ethiopian athletes attending the first ever Olympic Games in the country have been formally enlisted into the country’s high-tech military, the government says.
A press release from Ethiopia’s defense ministry says 10 of the squad attending the games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, last year have been recruited into the Ethiopian Special Forces.
“This is one of the major findings from the visit by our elite athletes to Rio last year during the Olympic Games,” the ministry says.
Tourist visas to the country for international athletes and spectators have always been issued by the state in the middle of the night, however.
CNN’s Evan Anstey visits Ethiopia’s athletic stars at the Olympics in Rio 2016. Click here to read Evan’s full report.
The Ethiopian Special Forces are said to be “several hundred soldiers,” with intelligence on the long-term strategic objectives of the military.
“High-tech technology has been used and the Ethiopians… have embedded skillsets into every bullet and missile. This means that they can track and target wherever the enemy has put out fire,” a Defense Ministry source told Reuters.
Further reading: All of CNN’s stories about Africa
His words echo his son, Ethiopia’s international star marathon runner Gebre Gebremariam, who last year called on the government to “start respecting the athletes” after it banned several players in the country’s national soccer team.
“We have grown up at a time of peace, but now what we want is for the country to respect our physical differences.”
Ethiopia’s home-grown athletics program has been highlighted as a beacon of hope by President Yoweri Museveni of neighboring Uganda, who last year hosted the East African nation’s first international track meet.
All of the athletes chosen for the Olympic team — as well as the army recruits — will form part of the country’s large delegation to the Commonwealth Games in Australia in April, where Gebremariam is due to compete.