Burundi Robotics Team Missing, 2 Seen Entering Canada

6 teenagers from African robotics team missing after competition in DC

DIASPORA-After being reported missing, two teens from Burundi's national robotics team were seen crossing the border into Canada, reports the Associated Press.

The remaining four are believed to be within the USA with reports suggesting they were in "safe hands", though the authorities refused to give more details. The six teenagers appear to have left on their own accord.

Police identified the two who fled to Canada as Don Ingabire, 16, and Audrey Mwamikazi, 17.

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 team participated in the first worldwide high school robotics competition, called the FIRST Global Challenge. Police said they did not have information about how they were spotted or the nature of the border crossing. Police searched the DAR Constitution Hall, where the robotics competition was held, and police tried to contact a contestant's uncle, without success.

Burundi's team placed 73rd out of 163 entries, though police in the nation's capital said that 18-year-olds Richard Irakoze and Aristide Irambona; 17-year-olds Kevin Sabumukiza, Nice Munezero and Audrey Mwamikazi; and 16-year-old Don Ingabire went missing on the last day of the competition.

Police tweeted missing person fliers on Wednesday asking for help finding the teens, who had last been seen at the FIRST Global Challenge around the time of Tuesday's final matches.

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The robotics competition for youth from around the world, organized by the nonprofit First Global, had gained worldwide attention after invited participants struggled to get visas. "They have one-year visas", the reports state.

Escotto said FIRST Global President Joe Sestak, a former Navy admiral and congressman, called police after receiving word from the team's mentor, Canesius Bindaba, that the teens had gone missing.

The Burundian embassy in Washington did not answer multiple phone calls or respond to an email from ABC News. That election sparked massive protests and led to an attempted coup that same year.

Burundi, for which the US State Department has issued a travel warning, has been experiencing civil unrest after a failed coup in 2015. According to the United Nations, over 300,000 people fled the country since 2014 due to violent gangs from Congo and disappearances and killings allegedly committed by Burundian security forces.

"Security of the students is of paramount importance to FIRST Global", organisers said.

There are also restrictions on movement, as military and police have checkpoints "throughout the country", the report says.

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