An American tourist and her driver have been rescued unharmed after being kidnapped in a national park in southwestern Uganda last week, the Ugandan authorities said on Sunday.
Kimberley Sue Endecott, 35, was abducted by gunmen in Queen Elizabeth National Park, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, on April 4. The kidnappers later demanded a ransom of $500,000 for her release.
“She has been located and rescued unharmed,” Uganda military spokesman Brigadier Richard Karemire told Reuters, referring to the tourist.
Ugandan government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said in a tweet that driver Jean Paul had also been rescued from Congo and that the kidnappers had escaped.
The two had been kidnapped on Tuesday evening. An elderly Canadian couple – both 78 – were also at the scene but were not taken. They raised the alarm.
Ugandan police said the group had “failed to take an armed ranger, a requirement according to park regulations”.
The gunmen’s identity is unclear but the area where the abduction took place was once roamed by fighters belonging to an anti-Kampala rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which is now mostly dormant. The group is still believed to have camps in eastern Congo.
Abductions and related attacks on tourists are rare in Uganda and the last such incident occurred in 1999.
Then, an American couple, four Britons and two New Zealanders were killed along with four Ugandan guides after being ambushed by gunmen in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a few kilometres south of the Queen Elizabeth park. Survivors said the killers appeared to be Congo-based Hutu rebels.
Friends of Endecott told American media that she loves travelling and that Uganda had been on her bucket list, “to see the gorillas, to go trekking”.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of most visited in the East African country, with tourists flocking there to see lions, hippos, crocodiles and various types of antelope.
(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Catherine Evans)