An American who was kidnapped along with her driver in Uganda last week has been recovered unharmed, a spokesman for the Ugandan government said Sunday. The pair were recovered along the border with the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and are expected to fly out Monday morning, CBS News correspondent Meg Oliver reports.
Kimberly Sue Endicott, 56, and tour driver Jean-Paul Mirenge Remezo were taken hostage at gunpoint while on safari in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park last Tuesday. Their four kidnappers had demanded a $500,000 ransom and had not backed down from the demand as of Friday, authorities told CBS News last week. The abductors had been using Endicott’s phone to negotiate her release and were in contact with authorities nearly everyday, officials said.
The Uganda Police Force said the pair were rescued during a joint operation and are in “good health.” A spokesman for the Ugandan government said Ugandan security forces were involved in the operation. The two were brought back to the lodge where she had been staying, while the kidnappers managed to escape.
Wild Frontiers Uganda, which operates the lodge in the park where Endicott was staying, released photos of Endicott and Remezo meeting with Paul Goldring, the company’s managing director.
The kidnapping spurred a massive search effort along the edge of the park, which borders the DRC. The park is one of 10 national parks in Uganda, where tourism remains a major driver of the economy. Hundreds of thousands of visitors travel to the parks each year.
Endicott, an esthetician, runs a skin care clinic in Costa Mesa, California.
Andrea Glasgow told CBS News that Endicott is a “free spirit” and liked to travel solo.
“I want to hear about what happened, you know,” Glasgow said. “You’re so independent you go over there by yourself? Scary.”
CBS News is told Wild Frontiers ultimately paid money to secure the pair’s release, though it was a significantly lower amount, Oliver reports. Paying that ransom has some questioning if this puts a price on Americans who are traveling abroad.
“We have seen where the lapses are, we will ensure that those are closed,” Sam Mwandha, executive director of Wildlife Frontiers, told CBS News. “We can assure everybody who comes to visit that Uganda is safe, our packs are safe, and they can continue coming.”