Robotics team from Burundi missing after competition in DC

WASHINGTON — Six teenage members of the Burundi robotics team were reported missing after competing in an international competition this week in Washington.

Police tweeted missing person fliers Wednesday asking for help finding the teens last seen in the area of the FIRST Global Challenge around the time of Tuesday’s final matches. The missing team members include two 17-year-old girls and four males ranging in age from 16 to 18.

The competition, 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.

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

“Security of the students is of paramount importance to FIRST Global,” organizers said, noting that they ensure students get to their dormitories after the competition by providing safe transportation to students staying at Trinity Washington University.

The students “are always to be under close supervision of their adult mentor and are advised not to leave the premises unaccompanied by the mentor.”

The mentor said the teens traveled from Burundi for the competition and have one-year visas, according to police reports. The mentor said they disappeared after the competition, but he doesn’t know where they went. The reports say police tried to contact one missing teen’s uncle but got no response. The reports state police canvassed DAR Constitution Hall, where the competition was held.

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 wiling is also the ability,” according to the page.

Police tweeted images of the teens Wednesday, saying they are looking for 17-year-old girls, Audrey Mwamikazi and Nice Munezero; 18-year-old men, Richard Irakoze and Aristide Irambona; Kevin Sabumukiza, 17; and Don Ingabire, 16.