He brought Burundi’s first robotics team to the U.S. to inspire his country. Then, the teens disappeared. – By Moriah Balingit July 22 at 6:01 PM


Outside Bujumbura International Airport in the capital city of Burundi, six teenagers bound for Washington D.C. to compete in an international robotics competitions locked hands with parents and relatives to pray one last time before boarding their flight. In Kirundi, their native language, Coach Canesius Bindaba asked God to bless their journey to the United States.

“I prayed that God may keep us safe on this trip,” Bindaba said.

When Bindaba uttered those words, he said he had no idea that the teens — likely with the help of their families — had orchestrated a secret bid to stay behind and possibly seek asylum in the U.S. and Canada. The squad — two girls and four boys who range in ages from 16 to 18 — went missing on Tuesday from the FIRST Global Challenge robotics after it ended at DAR Constitution Hall, and their disappearance set off a panicked search for them at Trinity University in Washington, D.C., where they were staying in dorms.

By Thursday morning, D.C. police said two of the teens — Don Charu Ingabire, 16, and Audrey Mwamikazi, 17 — crossed in to Canada and were with friends or relatives. Police on Thursday said the other four — Richard Irakoze, 18, Kevin Sabumukiza, 17, Nice Munezero, 17 and Aristide Irambona, 18 — were not yet with relatives but were still safe.

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