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Entire Burundi team 'goes missing' after United States robotics competition

22 July, 2017, 00:44 | Author: Jan Cross
  • 6 teenagers from African robotics team missing after competition in DC

Six members of the Burundi robotics team have gone missing in Washington DC after the First Global Challenge competition.

The robotics competition grabbed headlines worldwide after an all-girl team from Afghanistan was twice denied US visas to compete, but the White House later intervened in a last-minute act, granting that team and its chaperone a special parole to enter the country on a short-term basis.

The FIRST robotics competition in Washington DC drew worldwide attention last week after Afghanistan's all-girl team was denied United States visas, prompting public outcry.

The Metropolitan Police provided NPR with six almost identical police reports, which all state that Bindaba accompanied the teen to the robotics competition at Washington's DAR Constitution Hall.

FIRST Global President Joe Sestak, a former Democratic congressman in Pennsylvania, made the initial call to police, according to the statement.

"Security of the students is of paramount importance to FIRST Global", said organizers in a statement.

All students in the competition were supposed to be "under close supervision of their adult mentor" at all times and not to leave the facilities at Trinity Washington University unsupervised, First Global said.

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"We don't have an update on the whereabouts [of the others], but we have no indication that there was foul play", Mikhaylova told USA Today.

The males are 18-year-old Richard Irakoze and Aristide Irambona; 17-year-old Kevin Sabumukiza; and 16-year-old Don Ingabire.

A team of girls from Afghanistan made worldwide headlines when they were twice rejected for U.S. visas before President Donald Trump intervened, NBC News noted.

The missing students have one year visas, according to police reports. Fighting has killed at least 700 people and forced 400,000 from their homes since April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would run for a third term in office. It included 163 teams of high school students from around the globe, including a team of young women from Afghanistan who were initially denied visas twice, leading to global outcry. The mentor said they disappeared after the competition, but he doesn't know where they went. In its 2017 report, Freedom House labeled Burundi "not free" and warned that the country is experiencing "a shift toward authoritarian politics and ongoing repression of and violence against the opposition".

Burundi has always been plagued by civil war and other violence. "They have one-year visas", the reports state. Competition organisers became aware of the missing teens when the team's mentor could not locate them.

The mentor is identified in police reports as Canesius Bindaba.

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