American Tourist Kidnapped on Ugandan Safari and Held for Ransom (Update)
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Update as of 4:45pm on 04/07/19:
Both Endicott and tour guide Jean-Paul Mirenge Remezo have been released and returned to safety as of Sunday evening, unharmed, after being held hostage for five days. According to ABC News, a ransom was paid to the kidnappers but it is unclear at this time who made the payment, and what the amount was.
Endicott’s cousin, Rich, said in a statement to the Associated Press, “The family has done what’s been asked of them to do. I think it’s the government’s time to help us.”
An American woman traveling on safari in Uganda and a local safari tour guide were kidnapped on Tuesday and are being held for a ransom of $500,000. The situation is ongoing as of Sunday morning.
Kimberly Sue Endicott was on a game drive in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park, near the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo, along with an elderly couple when four armed men kidnapped the California woman as well as the driver of the vehicle. The elderly couple managed to escape the ordeal.
The company operating the excursion was Wild Frontiers Uganda, according to a Uganda deputy police spokesperson. With the help of military and wildlife personnel, Ugandan police are searching the Ishasha Wilderness Camp area, where the hostages were taken.
The US State Department issued a Level 2 travel advisory for Uganda back in December 2018, warning travelers about “violent crime, such as armed robbery, home invasion, and sexual assault.” An additional security alert for Ishasha was issued on April 4 by the State Department pertaining to the kidnapping. It advises that travelers “avoid the Ishasha area of Queen Elizabeth National Park in southwestern Uganda until the event is resolved.”
If you are traveling to the area, the State Department advises that you take the following precautions:
- Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
- Food and drinks should never be left unattended in public especially in local clubs.
- Remain with a group of friends in public.
- Use caution when walking or driving at night.
- Keep a low profile.
- Carry a copy of your passport and visa (if applicable) and leave originals in your hotel safe.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
- Review the Crime and Safety Report for Uganda.
- U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.
In addition to the threat listed above, Uganda also has strict policies in place against homosexuality, which is punishable with jail time.
For an alternative to Uganda, consider booking a Rwandan safari instead.
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Photo by Martin Zwick & CO/UIG via Getty Images
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