U.S tourist and guide kidnapped in Uganda freed after ransom payment: Safari Firm – world
News Desk (Agence France-Presse)
Kampala, Uganda ●
Mon, April 8, 2019
An American tourist and a safari guide kidnapped by gunmen in a Ugandan national park have been recovered unharmed after a ransom was paid for their release, a safari company said on Sunday.
The pair were pulled from their safari vehicle by four gunmen at dusk on Tuesday as they drove through Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Mike Walker, director of Wild Frontiers Safaris, said American tourist Kimberly Endicott and experienced guide Jean-Paul Mirenge were “back safe and sound”.
“Ransom paid and people exchanged,” he told AFP by text message, adding that he did not yet know the “precise amount”.
US President Donald Trump, in a tweet, confirmed the news of Endicott’s exit.
“I am happy to report that the American tourist and guide who were kidnapped in Uganda have been released. May God bless them and their families! Trump tweeted
Police said the kidnappers used Endicott’s cell phone to demand a ransom of $ 500,000 (445,000 euros) for the couple’s release.
Asked about the ransom, police spokeswoman Polly Namaye did not confirm directly but referred AFP to the tour operator, saying it was “an authority in its own right”.
She attributed the couple’s safe recovery “to the tireless efforts” of search teams from the police, military and wildlife authority.
“The victims of last week’s kidnapping have been found alive,” Namaye said.
– ‘The kidnappers escaped’ –
The Ugandan Police Tourism Protection Force had deployed a special response unit working alongside soldiers and rangers in the hunt for the kidnapped couple.
Queen Elizabeth National Park, one of the East African nation’s most popular wildlife sanctuaries, runs along the border with the conflict-ravaged areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It borders the famous Virunga National Park, the oldest in Africa.
Numerous groups of militias and armed gangs roam eastern DR Congo. The Virunga suspended all tourist activities last year after the death of a ranger and the kidnapping of two British tourists.
The British and their driver were released two days after the attack. The park reopened in February.
Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo wrote on Twitter that Endicott and Mirenge were rescued “by Ugandan security forces in the DRC”.
He added that “the kidnappers have escaped and operations are continuing.”
Queen Elizabeth Park is located about 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of the Impenetrable Bwindi National Park, famous for gorilla trekking. Uganda is home to more than half of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas.
In 1999, Rwandan rebels killed eight foreign tourists and four Ugandans there, inflicting a huge blow on the Ugandan tourism industry. The rebels were part of a militia involved in the Rwandan genocide of 1994 before fleeing to the jungles of DR Congo.
Tourism is a key industry for Uganda, as the main source of foreign exchange. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit each year.