Teens from Burundi Robotics Team Crossed Border into Canada

Posted: Jul 20, 2017 2:30 PM

Two members of the Burundi robotics team have been sighted, after the six-member team disappeared following the FIRST Global Challenge robotics competition. 

The two teens reportedly crossed the U.S. border into Canada, Metropolitan Police spokeswoman Aquita Brown said. They are identified as Don Ingabire, 16, and Audrey Mwamikazi, 17. 

The remaining team members have not been found. They include Richard Irakoze, 18, Kevin Sabumukiza, 17, Nice Munezero, 17, Aristide Irambona, 18, according to a police report. The teens have one-year visas. 

The competition, held in Washington D.C. opened on Sunday and closed Tuesday, which was the last time the team was seen. Wednesday, the team was reported missing

Burundi is located in East Africa, and has seen political unrest and violence after President Pierre Mkurunziza chose to run for a third term. The violence continues, with a travel warning issued by the State Department in June. 

The warning stated, "the political situation in Burundi is tenuous, and there is sporadic violence throughout the country, including frequent gunfire and grenade attacks by armed groups." The statement continues that, "rebel forces, ex-combatants, and youth gangs have crossed into Burundi from the Democratic Republic of Congo and attacked and kidnapped civilians."

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

According to the AP, the organization heard of the disappearance Tuesday night and called the police.

Spokesman Jose P. Escotto said FIRST Global President Joe Sestak called the police when Canesius Bindaba, the team’s mentor, (also stated as team coach) said the team was missing. With the help of a volunteer, Bindaba also filed a police report. Police searched the DAR Constitution Hall, where the robotics competition was held, and police tried to contact a contestant's uncle, without success. 

A statement reads that safety is of first importance at the competition, and that the organization provides measures to keep the teens safe. 

Police put fliers of the missing on Twitter, seeking help from the public.