Ugandan police announced on Sunday that they have rescued an American woman and her driver after the two were kidnapped last week while on safari.
The Uganda Police Force said on Twitter that it had worked with security agencies to rescue the 35-year-old California woman and her Ugandan tour guide. Both are in “good health,” according to police.
The Ugandan government and U.S. media outlets have identified the woman as Kimberly Sue Endicott. The Ugandan government identified the driver as Jean Paul Mirenge.
Four men allegedly abducted the pair from their vehicle at gunpoint last Tuesday during an evening game drive at Queen Elizabeth National Park in southwestern Uganda and demanded $500,000 in ransom, police said. Four other tourists were left “abandoned and unharmed,” according to the Uganda Media Centre, the government’s communications center.
Police did not offer further details about how the two were freed, and it’s not clear if a ransom was paid. Citing the safari company with which they were traveling, The New York Times reported on Sunday that a ransom had in fact been paid.
“Pleased to report that the American tourist and tour guide that were abducted in Uganda have been released,” President Trump tweeted Sunday. “God bless them and their families!”
Ugandan politicians have stressed that the area where the two were taken is peaceful and have encouraged tourists to continue to visit. In a press release last week, police said the kidnapping was the first “incident of this kind” for the park and its surroundings, located near the country’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Frank Tumwebaze, Uganda’s minister of information and communications technology, wrote on Twitter on Sunday that the country is “very safe.”
“Our parks have been the most secure zones over the years and they remain so,” he wrote. “Isolated criminal incidents like this particular one, can happen any where in the world. Every challenge helps us to improve our readiness.”
The U.S. Embassy in Uganda last week urged visitors to “Exercise caution when traveling to this area due to ongoing security activity.”
News of the kidnapping came during a week when U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told families of Americans held captive overseas that the U.S. “cannot accept” the risk of paying ransom in exchange for the return of individuals.
“Even a small payment to a group in, say, Africa can facilitate the killing or seizure of tens or even hundreds of others, including Americans or foreign nationals in that region,” Pompeo said.