US tourist and safari guide freed after kidnap in Uganda/AIWAI! NO!
BY STEFAN BECKET/ CBS NEWS
An American who was kidnapped along with her driver in Uganda last week has been recovered unharmed, a spokesman for the Ugandan government said Sunday. The pair were recovered along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Kimberly Endicott, 56, and tour driver Jean-Paul Mirgene Remezo were taken hostage at gunpoint while on safari in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park last Tuesday. Their four kidnappers had demanded a $500,000 ransom and had not backed down from the demand as of Friday, authorities told CBS News last week. The abductors had been using Endicott’s phone to negotiate her release and were in contact with authorities nearly everyday, officials said.
The Uganda Police Force said the pair were rescued during a joint operation and are in “good health.” A spokesman for the Ugandan government said Ugandan security forces were involved in the operation. The two were brought back to the lodge where she had been staying, while the kidnappers managed to escape.
Wild Frontiers Uganda, which operates the lodge in the park where Endicott was staying, released photos of Endicott and Remezo meeting with Paul Goldring, the company’s managing director.
The kidnapping spurred a massive search effort along the edge of the park, which borders the DRC. The park is one of 10 national parks in Uganda, where tourism remains a major driver of the economy. Hundreds of thousands of visitors travel to the parks each year.
Endicott, an esthetician, runs a skin care clinic in Costa Mesa, California.
A massive search-and-rescue effort was underway Wednesday in Uganda after an American tourist and a local guide were ambushed and kidnapped by four armed men demanding a $500,000 ransom, Ugandan police said.
The attack took place Tuesday in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, a sprawling wildlife refuge more than 200 miles west of the capital Kampala.
The American was identified by police as Kimberley Sue Endecdott, 35, from California, who was taken along with her Ugandan driver Paul, when their vehicle was ambushed by the gunmen, Reuters reported.
The kidnappers, using the victim’s phone, demanded the ransom. “We strongly believe this ransom is the reason behind the kidnap,” the statement said.
The police statement said Endecott had entered Uganda on March 29 and flew to the park the following day.
An elderly couple who was also at the scene were not taken. They contacted the camp manager, who rescued them, according to police police spokesperson Polly Namaye. The BBC reports that a second couple with the group was also unharmed.
The U.S. Embassy in Kampala was informed, Namaye said. A State Department spokeswoman said only that U.S. officials were aware of the kidnapping report and the response by Ugandan security forces.
Namaye said authorities set up roadblocks and cut off the border between Uganda and the Congo in the area. Ugandan security forces, police and game wildlife officers collaborated in the manhunt.
“We strongly believe the perpetrators and victims could still be trapped within our search area,” the statement said. “We are hopeful that our efforts will lead to their successful recovery.” ..Uganda police statement
The park, in western Uganda, is about 750 square miles of savannah and tropical forest. It sits between two lakes at the base of the Rwenzori Mountains and is home to buffalo, hippopotamuses, crocodiles, elephants, leopards, lions and chimpanzees.
“We want to further reassure the public that this is the first incident of this kind,” the statement said. “Those planning to visit the National Park and its surroundings should not be discouraged. Strengthened safety measures have been put in place for both the local residents and visitors.”
In 1994, eight tourists, including an American couple, were hacked or bludgeoned to death in the Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest by a band or rebels armed with rifles, machetes and spears, according to The New York Times. Four Ugandan park employees were also slain in the campsites.
The killers were were ethnic Hutu rebels, according to the State Department and survivors.