Entire Burundi teen robotics team reported missing in DC

All six members of an African robotics team that was in Washington, D.C. for an international robotics competition disappeared Tuesday — and the team’s mentor said he has no idea where the students could be.

The group, aged 16 to 18, were in the nation’s capital representing the small east African country of Burundi in the inaugural event of the FIRST Global Challenge robotics competition.

Police said the missing teenagers — four males and two females — were last seen in the area of DAR Constitution Hall around 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the last day of the three-day competition.

The D.C. Police Department identified the teenagers as: Richard Irakoze, 18; Kevin Sabumukiza, 17; Nice Munezero, 17; Aristide Irambona, 18; Don Ingabira, 16; and Audrey Mwamikazi, 17. They are in the U.S. on one-year visas.

Officials from the Burundi Embassy in Washington told Fox News on Thursday that they were aware of the situation but did not provide any additional details.

Competition organizers learned Tuesday night the team’s mentor couldn’t find the six students who participated in the competition, and FIRST Global President Joe Sestak, a former congressman, made the initial call to the police, according to a statement from the organization.

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“Security of the students is of paramount importance to FIRST global,” FIRST Global said in a statement. “FIRST Global ensures that all students get to their dormitories after the daily competition by providing safe transportation to the students staying at Trinity Washington University who are always to be under close supervision of their adult mentor and are advised not to leave the premises unaccompanied by the mentor.”

In each report, the team’s mentor told police the teens “went missing after the competition and he does not know where [they] could have went.”

According to the police reports, authorities attempted to contact an uncle of one of the missing teenagers but received no response.

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.

Nkurunziza won another term in disputed elections in July 2015 and remains in power, but Burundi has stayed unsettled. At least one armed group has announced a rebellion and sporadic violent attacks have sparked fears of a return to civil war.

The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning in late June about the African nation, advising Americans of “political tensions, political and criminal violence, and the potential for civil unrest.”

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.

The competition in Washington, designed to encourage youths to pursue careers in math and science, attracted teams of teenagers from more than 150 nations. A squad of girls from Afghanistan drew the most attention after they were twice rejected for U.S. visas and President Donald Trump intervened so they could come to America.

The competition’s webpage about Team Burundi shows the six team members posing with a flag and says team members were selected from schools in Bujumbura, the capital city. The team’s slogan in Kirundi is “Ugushaka Nugushobora,” meaning “where there is willing is also the ability,” according to the page.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a News Editor/Writer for FoxNews.com.

Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang


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