An American tourist and her guide abducted in Uganda last week were released after a “negotiated settlement” with the kidnappers, the firm organising her safari told Reuters.
Amid fears the incident could deter tourists from visiting the East African country, US President Donald Trump called on Twitter for the kidnappers to be found.
Ugandan authorities said Kimberley Sue Endecott (35) and her driver, Jean Paul, were rescued unharmed after being seized by gunmen in Queen Elizabeth National Park on April 2. The kidnappers later demanded a ransom of $500,000.
Acknowledgement of negotiations with her captors follows reports in several local media outlets, including state-owned daily New Vision, that a ransom was paid before the two were freed.
“A negotiated settlement was arranged with the assistance of the American government,” a spokesman for Wild Frontiers Safaris Uganda told Reuters. “I don’t have details of the final settlement”
New Vision reported, citing undisclosed sources a ransom of $30,000 was paid.
In Washington, a State Department official said the United States maintains a “no concessions” policy that covers ransoms for Americans taken captive.
“We firmly believe making concessions increases the risks for Americans and others traveling abroad,” the official said, adding the United States worked closely with Ugandan authorities for the release of Endecott. “We cannot get into the details of this case, but confirm we worked closely with our Ugandan counterparts,” the official added.
Uganda Police spokeswoman Polly Namaye could not confirm whether a ransom was paid.
It remains unclear who was responsible for the abduction, in an area once roamed by fighters belonging to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an anti-Kampala rebel group now mostly dormant. The group is believed to have camps in eastern Congo.
“Uganda must find the kidnappers of the American tourist and guide before people will feel safe going there,” Trump tweeted on Monday. “Bring them to justice openly and quickly!”
Tourism is a key source of foreign exchange for Uganda and there are concerns the incident might raise safety fears and discourage visitors.
In a tweet on Monday, President Yoweri Museveni promised to “deal with these isolated pockets of criminals.”
“I want to reassure the country and tourists Uganda is safe and we shall continue to improve security in our parks. Come and enjoy the Pearl of Africa,” he wrote.