Search Continues for American Woman and her Safari Guide who were Kidnapped in Uganda

Kampala, Uganda — Ugandan security forces scoured dense bush on Thursday in the hunt for a U.S. tourist and her safari guide who were kidnapped by gunmen in a national park. “The operation to rescue the tourist is still ongoing,” Uganda’s tourism minister, Godfrey Kiwanda, told AFP on Thursday.

Four kidnappers stopped a group of tourists at gunpoint around dusk on Tuesday as they drove through the Queen Elizabeth National Park on safari to see wild animals. Police identified the American as a 35-year-old Kimberley Sue Endecott and said the kidnappers had used her mobile telephone to demand a ransom of $500,000 for the release of the pair. The driver is a 48-year-old safari guide with years of experience.

Police spokeswoman Polly Namaye said all efforts were being made, adding that Uganda’s top-ranking police officer, Inspector General Martin Okoth Ochola, had flown to the area to lead operations.

“The operation is continuing,” she told AFP.

The gunmen dragged the pair from their safari vehicle, but left behind two other tourists, whom police described as an “elderly couple.” That pair managed to raise the alarm from the lodge where they were staying.

Editor’s noteBashir Hangi, a spokesman for Uganda’s state-run Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), told the Reuters news agency earlier on Thursday that the small group including Endecott had set out for their tour without an armed guard, which he said was required by the park’s rules, but CBS News spoke to multiple tour organizers in Uganda on Thursday who all flatly rejected that claim.

The safari group organizers said that tour groups are not actually permitted to travel with armed guards in Uganda or its national parks.

Armed anti-poaching forces, along with Ugandan law enforcement and military, are the only armed personnel permitted to patrol the area and multiple sources told CBS News that tourists are unlikely to ever see such personnel during a tour.

Popular but risky area

The U.S. embassy in Kampala said it was aware of the kidnapping, warning its citizens to “exercise caution when travelling to this area due to ongoing security activity.”

Soldiers have fanned out along the porous border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with security forces insisting they believe the pair remain in the country.

The Ugandan police’s tourist protection force has also deployed a special response unit working alongside soldiers and wildlife rangers.

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SOURCE: CBS/AFP