Published: Fri, July 21, 2017
Global Media | By Garry Long

Burundi Robotics Team Missing After US Competition

Burundi Robotics Team Missing After US Competition

"FIRST Global learned the adult mentor of Team Burundi is unable to find the group of six students who participated in the 2017 FIRST Global Challenge", Jose P. Escotto, an organization spokesman, said Thursday.

The teens were last seen at the First Global robotics challenge, which saw young people from 36 African countries and elsewhere gather in Washington present their inventions in line with this year's theme of providing "access to clean water". An all-girl squad from Afghanistan drew worldwide media attention when President Donald Trump intervened after they were denied US visas.

The missing students have one year visas, according to police reports.

Don Ingabire (L), 16 and Audrey Mwamikazi, 17, members of a teenage robotics team from the African nation of Burundi, who were reported missing after taking part in an worldwide competition and later spotted crossing the United States border into Canada, are seen in pictures released by the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., U.S. July 20, 2017.

FIRST Global President Joe Sestak called the police to report the students as missing, according to the organization's statement, and "proper follow on reports have been submitted to the police who are investigating the case". In addition to Ingabire and Mwamikazi, Richard Irakoze, 18, Kevin Sabumukiza, 17, Nice Munezero, 17 and Aristide Irambona, 18, also were reported missing.

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According to a statement from First Global, "there were indications that the students' absence may have been self-initiated, including leaving all their keys in their mentor/chaperone's bag and the removal of students' clothes from their rooms" at Trinity Washington University. He said he did not know where they went.

The team's mentor said they disappeared after the competition. The reports say police canvassed DAR Constitution Hall, where the competition was held. The search is ongoing for the other members of the team. It added that FIRST Global had provided safe transport to university dormitories and students were always supposed to be under the supervision of their mentor. They are in the USA on one-year visas. Authorities attempted to reach one of the missing teen's uncles but did not get an answer, according to the police reports.

Burundi, bordered by Tanzania, Rwanda and Lake Tanganyika, has been plagued by sporadic violence since April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term led to street protests.

The warning also stated that rebel forces, ex-combatants and youth gangs from the Democratic Republic of Congo reportedly crossed into Burundi and attacked and kidnapped civilians; armed criminals have ambushed vehicles.

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