Burundi missing teens in Canada after USA competition

Members of a teenage robotics team from the African nation of Burundi, who were reported missing after taking part in an worldwide competition, are seen in pictures released by police in Washington, D.C., US, July 20, 2017.

Based on police reports filed Wednesday, the four boys and two girls from the East African nation were last seen Tuesday evening, when the competition concluded.

Organizers of an worldwide robotics competition in the US capital believe the disappearance of six teens from Burundi may have been "self-initiated". Police searched the DAR Constitution Hall, where the robotics competition was held, and police tried to contact a contestant's uncle, without success.

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

"First Local was fully responsible for supervision of the students", Pauley said Thursday.

She added that the department does not suspect foul play.

The other teenagers missing were identified as: Richard Irakoze, 18; Kevin Sabumukiza, 17; Nice Munezero, 17; Aristide Irambona, 18. They are reportedly with members of their family in the U.S., WJLA-TV reported.

The mentor, Canesius Bindaba, said they have one-year visas, according to police reports.

Burundi saw an outbreak of political violence in April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term in office.

The competition, which included teams from more than 150 countries, drew attention when a team of girls from Afghanistan were twice denied visas before being allowed to travel to the USA for the event. They were only allowed to travel to Washington and enter the contest after a personal intervention from President Donald Trump. The mentor said the six disappeared after the competition but he does not know where they went, NBC News reported.

Burundi has always been plagued by civil war and other violence.

"I have heard it on numerous occasions that individuals have chosen Canada because they don't feel that the US government is supportive of refugees", said Clarke, who has worked on several cases involving Burudi refugees claimants. Police said the students had one-year visas. Hundreds of people have been killed, according to the United Nations, and rights groups accuse Burundi's security forces of abuses including killings and disappearances.

Police indicated that the other four teens were also believed to be in safe hands, the Washington Post reported. A previous version erroneously said the two Burundi teens would not fall under the Canada-U.S.

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