By Andrew Irumba
An American woman and her safari guide who were kidnapped in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park by armed captors have been rescued unharmed on Sunday five days later.
Sources say the two were released after a ransom asked by their captors was paid though no official figure has been revealed by the time we went to press.
Kim Sue Endicott of Southern California and her tour guide, a Congolese national Jean-Paul Mirenge Remezo, were freed in a negotiated handover, officials said.
The kidnappers who abducted them at gunpoint in Queen Elizabeth National Park had demanded a $500,000 (Shs.1.8B) ransom, but it was not immediately known how much was paid to secure their release or who paid it.
Endicott and Remezo were taken back to a lodge at the park, a spokesman for the Wild Frontiers Uganda safari operation said.
“Security services have this evening managed to rescue kidnapped citizen Kimberly Sue Endicott and her driver Jean Paul Mirenge [Remezo],” Government of Uganda tweeted on its official handle.
The tweet expressed appreciation to the Ugandan police and sister security agencies “that led the operation to return Sue and Jean Paul.”
In a statement, the Ugandan government said Endicott and Remezo were “recovered unharmed, in good health” and were in the “safe hands of the joint security team”.
News of the kidnapped victims’ release came after the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI) got involved in the search and a relative of Edincott asked for more help from the U.S. government in finding Endicott, the owner of a Costa Mesa skincare shop.
President Donald Trump also tweeted about the release Sunday afternoon.
“Pleased to report that the American tourist and tour guide that were abducted in Uganda have been released, God bless them and their families,” he said through his tweeter.
Details of how Endicott and Remezo were saved were not immediately available.
“The family has done what’s been asked of them to do. I think it’s the government’s time to help us,” Kim Endicott’s cousin, Rich Endicott, a 62-year-old banker from Phoenix, Arizona, told the Associated Press.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed empathy for the Endicott family last week but said the U.S. has a long tradition of not paying a ransom to secure the release of U.S. citizens.
“Please remember that any payment to a terrorist or a terrorist regime gives money so that they can seize more of our people,” Pompeo said after meeting privately with relatives of other U.S. citizens being held captive aboard. “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.”
Keith Endicott implored the U.S. government for saving his cousin’s life.