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American tourist rescued after Queen Elizabeth Park kidnap

FILE PHOTO: Tourists at Queen Elizabeth Park

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT & AFP | Reports just in indicate that Kimberly Sue Endicott, an American who was kidnapped for ransom last week in Queen Elizabeth National Park, has been released safely along with her guide Jean Paul Mirenge.

According to US website ABC7.com, “the release came after a ransom was paid and a negotiated handover was conducted. The two kidnap victims returned to a lodge at Queen Elizabeth National Park on Sunday, according to a spokesperson for Wild Frontiers Uganda.”

“The victims of last week’s kidnapping have been recovered alive,” said police spokeswoman Polly Namaye later.

Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo confirmed the development, tweeting that the tourist was actually rescued from the DRC. “#Kidnappedtourists Rescued alive from the DRC and brought back safely to #TheWildfrontiersLodge in Uganda. We want to thank the joint Uganda security forces for the successful operation,” he tweeted.

Ugandan security forces have for the past week scoured dense bush between the park and neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in the hunt for the US tourist and her safari guide who were kidnapped by gunmen.

Ransom paid

Mike Walker, manager of Wild Frontiers Safaris, said US tourist Kimberly Endicott and experienced guide Jean-Paul Mirenge, were “back safe”.

“Ransom paid and people exchanged,” he told AFP by text, adding that he didn’t know the “precise amount yet”.

US President Donald Trump, in a tweet, confirmed the news of Endicott’s released.

“Pleased to report that the American tourist and tour guide that were abducted in Uganda have been released. God bless them and their families!” Trump tweeted

Four kidnappers stopped a group of tourists at gunpoint around dusk on Tuesday as they drove through the Queen Elizabeth National Park on safari to see wild animals.

Police later identified the American as 35-year-old Endicott, and said the kidnappers had later used her mobile telephone to demand a ransom of $500,000 (445,000 euros) for the release of the pair. Also held was driver Mirenge, a 48-year old safari guide with years of experience.

Kimberly

The kidnap

The gunmen dragged the pair from their safari vehicle, but left behind two other tourists, whom police described as an “elderly couple”. They managed to raise the alarm from the lodge where they were staying.

Queen Elizabeth National Park, one of the East African nation’s most popular wildlife reserves, runs along the frontier with conflict-wracked regions of DR Congo, bordering its famous Virunga national park, the oldest in Africa.

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.

Park close to DRC

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 Britons and their driver were freed two days after the attack. The park reopened in February.

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. Uganda is home to over half of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas.

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.

Army spokesman, Brigadier Richard Karemire, insisted the kidnapping was “an isolated incident” and that Uganda remains safe for tourists.

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