Two of six teenagers from Burundi who were reported missing after taking part in an international robotics competition in Washington DC were seen leaving the US for Canada on Thursday, DC police told BuzzFeed News.
"Two of the reported missing persons were last seen leaving the US into Canada," a police spokesperson said on Thursday. "We do not have any indication of foul play. This investigation continues."
Police indicated that the other four teens were also believed to be in safe hands, the Washington Post reported.
The teens, between the ages of 16 and 18, were part of the inaugural First Global Challenge — an international robotics Olympics for high-school students — held at the DAR Constitution Hall in the city. Nearly 160 teams from nations across the world participated.
The members of the Burundi team, which comprised four males and two females, were last seen after the competition in the 1700 block of D Street NW at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, according to police reports provided to BuzzFeed News.
The missing students have one-year visas, according to police reports. They were identified as Audrey Mwamikazi, 17; Nice Munezero, 17; Don Charu Ingabire, 16; Kevin Sabumukiza, 17; Richard Irakoze, 18; and Aristide Irambona, 18.
Ingabire and Mwamikazi were the two students seen leaving the US for Canada, DC police told BuzzFeed News.
"There were indications that the students’ absence may have been self-initiated," First Global said in a statement to BuzzFeed News on Thursday.
The organization said that the students had left all their keys in their mentor's bag and all their clothes had been removed from their rooms.
On Tuesday night, the adult mentor and coach of Team Burundi, Canisius Bindaba, informed competition officials that he was unable to find the six students from his team after the event, First Global said in its statement.
Bindaba "had returned to the dormitories where the entire team was staying, thinking that the students were on another bus shuttle to the dormitories following the final Award and Closing Ceremony the night of July 18," First Global said.
Bindaba did not know where the students could have gone, according to police reports on all six students.
Police canvassed the DAR Constitution Hall but could not locate the teens. Authorities attempted to reach one of the missing teen's uncles in the area but did not get an answer, according to the police reports.
First Global President Joe Sestak, a former admiral and congressman who also served in President Bill Clinton's administration, initially called the police, and "proper follow on reports have been submitted to the police who are investigating the case," the organization said.
"FIRST Global ensures that all students get to their dormitories after the daily competition by providing safe transportation to the students staying at Trinity Washington University who are always to be under close supervision of their adult mentor and are advised not to leave the premises unaccompanied by the mentor," the organization said.
"It's the first time in Burundi's history to participate in such a championship," Bindaba told the Chinese Xinhua News Agency on July 12 before the start of the competition. "We hope that we will beat other competitors during the robot Olympics," he said.
The US State Department in June warned US citizens against travel to Burundi "due to political tensions, political and criminal violence, and the potential for civil unrest."
The travel advisory said that rebel forces, ex-combatants, and youth gangs had crossed into Burundi from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and had "attacked and kidnapped civilians."