An American tourist and a local guide have been kidnapped by gunmen in Uganda, who are demanding $500,000 for their safe return.
Just before the kidnapping on Tuesday evening, 35-year-old Kimberly Sue Endicott, her 48-year-old guide, and two other tourists had been driving through Queen Elizabeth National Park, a wildlife reserve and one of Uganda’s most popular tourist destinations. According to the Guardian, the group’s vehicle was stopped at gunpoint by four men, who made off with the woman and the guide. The two other tourists, whom police described as an “elderly couple,” were unharmed. The gunmen subsequently used the woman’s cellphone to demand the ransom.
Authorities are monitoring Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but say they believe the victims are still being held in Uganda. “A joint operation by the Uganda police, Uganda People’s Defense Forces, and Uganda Wildlife Authority game wardens is underway to locate and rescue them,” said government spokesman Ofwono Opondo. An elite police tourist protection force has also been dispatched.
Press Release on the kidnapped tourist pic.twitter.com/2zwwIpcQhD
— Uganda Police Force (@PoliceUg) April 3, 2019
Though Queen Elizabeth National Park is generally regarded as safe for tourists, Uganda has at times faced violence in its reserves. According to the Associated Press, eight tourists and four employees were killed in 1999 in a national park south of the Queen Elizabeth reserve. It is believed that the perpetrators were connected to Hutu militias involved in the Rwandan genocide.
The Queen Elizabeth Park is also close to the border with the DRC, where “numerous militia groups and armed gangs roam,” the Guardian reports. Last year, Congo’s famed Virunga National Park closed to tourists after a park ranger was murdered and two British tourists and their driver were kidnapped. The three kidnap victims were released two days later.
As the hours tick by, Ugandan authorities are working to ensure that these two victims are similarly fortunate. “The priority at this point is to locate, rescue, and bring them back to safety,” Opondo said.
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Read more at the Guardian.