Kasese, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Police and UPDF have dispatched teams to Queen Elizabeth National Park where a search in on for an American tourist and Ugandan guide are reported kidnapped. The kidnappers are demanding a $500,000 ransom, Police has confirmed.
The two were grabbed, after armed men put four tourists on gun point on Tuesday. The rest of tourists were rescued.
The American has been identified as Kimbley Sue Endecott.
The incident occurred between 6-7 p.m., along the Edward track, a section located between Katoke gate and wilderness camp in the park, according to Deputy Police spokesman Polly Namaye. The kidnapped tourists are identified as Kimberley Sue Endecott, a US citizen and one John Paul, a tour guide from World Frontiers Safaris Uganda.
Namaye says the gunmen waylaid a vehicle registration number UAE 777E which was carrying four tourists and varnished with two of them. They also went with the car keys, leaving the other two tourists stranded. The two were identified as Martin Julius and his wife Barbel.
“The kidnappers using the victim’s phone have demanded USD 500,000 (1.8 billion Shillings). We strongly believe this ransom is the reason behind the kidnap.” Namaye said.
The kidnap comes at the time when army and police have just intensified security operations at the Kanungu border of Ishasha following the kidnap of six Ugandans including a 12-year-old child.
Namaye said security forces among other police, Internal Security Organisation (ISO), army and External Security Organisations (ESO) to trace for kidnapped tourists including Ugandans who went missing weeks ago.
Details of attack
Two other tourists, whom police described as an “elderly couple”, were present when the gunmen attacked but were not abducted or physically harmed. They managed to raise the alarm from the lodge where they were staying.
The attack took place between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm (1500-1600GMT), police said.
“A joint operation by the Uganda police, Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and Uganda Wildlife Authority game wardens is under way to locate and rescue them,” government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said.
“The priority at this point is to locate, rescue and bring them back to safety.”
– Elite squad deployed –
Uganda police’s tourist protection force has also deployed a special response unit.
“The police have despatched an elite squad from the tourism police to reinforce the security teams at Queen Elizabeth National Park, to actively pursue a group of four unknown gunmen,” Namaye said.
“Joint security teams have cut off all exit areas on the border between Uganda and the DRC in search for the victims,” she added.
Queen Elizabeth National Park, one of the East African nation’s most famous wildlife reserves, runs along the frontier with conflict-wracked regions of DR Congo, bordering its famous Virunga national park, the oldest in Africa.
Numerous militia groups and armed gangs roam eastern DR Congo. Virunga suspended all tourism activities last year after a ranger was killed and two British tourists kidnapped. The park reopened in February.
The Britons and their driver were freed two days after the attack.
The Ugandan park straddles the equator, covering 1,978 square kilometres (764 square miles) in the country’s south west.
It is also about 150 kilometres (90 miles) north of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, famous among tourists for gorilla trekking.
In 1999, Rwandan rebels killed eight foreign tourists there, inflicting an enormous blow to Uganda’s tourist industry. The rebels were part of a militia group that was involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide before fleeing to the jungles of DR Congo.
Tourism is a key industry for Uganda, as a major earner of foreign currency. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit each year. Uganda is home to over half of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING AFP & URN