Kidnapped American tourist, guide rescued by security forces in Uganda

Jorge L. Ortiz
American tourist Kimberly Sue Endicott and her guide were rescued after being kidnapped Tuesday in a Ugandan national park.

American tourist Kimberly Sue Endicott and her tour guide, who were ambushed and kidnapped Tuesday in Uganda, have been rescued and are in good health, Ugandan authorities said Sunday.

The country’s government and police announced their rescue by security forces on Twitter without addressing whether a ransom was paid.

"The duo are in good health & in the safe hands of the joint security team,'' the Ugandan police tweeted.

The kidnappers fled the scene when security forces moved in, according to media reports.

Endicott, from Southern California, was visiting Queen Elizabeth National Park alongside Congolese guide Jean Paul Mirenge when they were abducted at gunpoint by four men who used her cellphone to contact authorities and demand a $500,000 ransom, Ugandan police said.

Endicott and Mirenge were on an evening safari with a Canadian couple when the gunmen accosted their vehicle, taking the first two and robbing the 78-year-old Canadians but leaving them behind. They notified the camp manager, who rescued them.

An massive search-and-rescue effort was launched after the ambush and kidnapping.

President Donald Trump was among those hailing the safe release of Endicott and Mirenge, tweeting, "God bless them and their families!''

It was not known whether a ransom was paid or by whom, but U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said the American government does not pay ransom for its citizens.

At a Tuesday event for families of U.S. citizens held captive overseas, before news of Endicott's abduction was out, Pompeo said he understands relatives' anguish but that paying ransom would just lead to more kidnappings.

The State Department released a statement Friday saying, “Whenever a U.S. citizen is taken captive abroad, we work tirelessly – in partnership with local authorities – to secure their release and get them home safely.”

More: American woman kidnapped in Uganda; $500K ransom demanded

Police said Endicott, who owns a small skin-care shop in Orange County, arrived in Uganda on March 29 and on the next day flew to the park, a sprawling wildlife refuge more than 200 miles west of the capital city of Kampala.

Queen Elizabeth Park is known as Uganda’s most popular tourist destination and is generally regarded as safe, but the western edge borders the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to several rebel groups.

Last year two British tourists and their driver were kidnapped in the Virunga National Park across the border in Congo. They were released two days later.

Contributing: John Bacon and Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kidnapped American tourist, guide rescued by security forces in Uganda