Uganda Police Say Kidnapped US Woman and Driver Are Freed

Uganda Police Say Kidnapped US Woman and Driver Are Freed
Kimberly Endicott. (Kimberly Endicott/Facebook via CNN)

KAMPALA, Uganda—Ugandan police said on Sunday, April 7, they had rescued an American woman and her driver who had been kidnapped by gunmen in a national park.

The two “are in good health” and “in the safe hands” of security officials, police said in a Twitter update.

Authorities gave no more details.

Ugandan security teams had been hunting down gunmen who had demanded a $500,000 ransom after kidnapping the American, Kim Endicott, and her Ugandan guide in a national park popular with tourists.

They were ambushed on April 2 in Queen Elizabeth National Park, a protected area near the porous border with Democratic Republic of Congo, according to Ugandan authorities.

President Donald Trump tweeted that the pair had been released and added, “God bless them and their families!”

It remains unclear if a ransom was paid in the case of Endicott, who is from Costa Mesa, California, where she has a small skin care shop.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said at a Tuesday event for families of U.S. citizens held captive overseas that he understands some people want to do anything to get their loved ones back but paying ransom would just lead to more kidnappings.

In a Friday statement, the State Department said that the safety and security of U.S. citizens abroad is its highest priority.

“Whenever a U.S. citizen is taken captive abroad, we work tirelessly—in partnership with local authorities—to secure their release and get them home safely,” the statement said.

Earlier Friday, an Arizona man who is related to Endicott said he wanted to see the U.S. send in Navy SEALS to locate and rescue her if that’s what it took.

Phoenix resident Rich Endicott, a 62-year-old banker, said he hasn’t spoken with his cousin since a family reunion several years ago. He said Kim Endicott is in her late 50s and has a daughter and granddaughter.

Ugandan government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said in a tweet that driver Jean Paul had also been rescued from Congo and that the kidnappers had escaped.

The gunmen’s identity is unclear but the area where the abduction took place was once roamed by fighters belonging to an anti-Kampala rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which is now mostly dormant. The group is still believed to have camps in eastern Congo.

uganda, udangan forest
A helicopter photo of Ugandan plain. (Roberto Schimdt/AFP/Getty Images)

Abductions and related attacks on tourists are rare in Uganda and the last such incident occurred in 1999. Then, an American couple, four Britons and two New Zealanders were killed along with four Ugandan guides after being ambushed by gunmen in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a few kilometers south of the Queen Elizabeth park. Survivors said the killers appeared to be Congo-based Hutu rebels.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of most visited in the East African country, with tourists flocking there to see lions, hippos, crocodiles and various types of antelope.

Reuters contributed to this report

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