Costa Mesa resident Kimberly Sue Endicott, kidnapped in Uganda, is released
KAMPALA, Uganda — Ugandan police said on Sunday they had rescued an American woman and her driver who had been kidnapped by gunmen in a national park.
The two “are in good health” and “in the safe hands” of security officials, police said in a Twitter update.
Authorities gave no more details.
Ugandan security teams had been hunting down gunmen who had demanded a $500,000 ransom after kidnapping the American, Kim Endicott, and her Ugandan guide in a national park popular with tourists.
They were ambushed on April 2 in Queen Elizabeth National Park, a protected area near the porous border with Congo, according to Ugandan authorities.
President Trump tweeted at 12:50 p.m., “Pleased to report that the American tourist and tour guide that were abducted in Uganda have been released. God bless them and their families!”
Pleased to report that the American tourist and tour guide that were abducted in Uganda have been released. God bless them and their families!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 7, 2019
It remains unclear if a ransom was paid.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said at a Tuesday event for families of U.S. citizens held captive overseas that he understands some people want to do anything to get their loved ones back but paying ransom would just lead to more kidnappings.
In a Friday statement, the State Department said that the safety and security of U.S. citizens abroad is its highest priority.
“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,” the statement said.
Earlier Friday, an Arizona man who is related to Endicott said he wanted to see the U.S. send in Navy SEALS to locate and rescue her if that’s what it took.
Phoenix resident Rich Endicott, a 62-year-old banker, said he hasn’t spoken with his cousin since a family reunion several years ago.
He said Kim Endicott is in her late 50s and has a daughter and granddaughter.
Police & its sister security agencies have today rescued Ms.Kimberley Sue, an American tourist together with her guide who were kidnapped while on an evening game drive at Queen Elizabeth National park.The duo are in good health & in the safe hands of the joint security team.
— Uganda Police Force (@PoliceUg) April 7, 2019
Security services have this evening managed to rescue kidnapped U.S. citizen Kimberly Sue Endicott and her driver Jean Paul Mirenge. Appreciation goes to @PoliceUg and sister security agencies that led the operation to return Sue and Jean Paul.
Details to follow. pic.twitter.com/l3xczXixgb
— Government of Uganda (@GovUganda) April 7, 2019
The U.S. Embassy in Uganda warned travelers to exercise caution in the area in a statement posted to its website on Wednesday.
The embassy is “aware of reports that an American citizen was kidnapped in the Ishasha area of Queen Elizabeth National Park in southwestern Uganda on April 2, 2019. Government of Uganda security forces are responding to the area,” the statement said.
While the FBI’s website says it is often involved in the response when Americans are threatened or harmed abroad, an agency spokeswoman on Friday declined to comment on Endicott’s case.
On Sunday, the State Department said only, “We are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen hostage was recovered on April 7 by Ugandan security officials. Privacy considerations prevent us from commenting further at this time.”
Friends and acquaintances describe Endicott, who has a small skin care business, as a generous person and an adventure seeker with a passion for animals and traveling, according to interviews and news reports. Going on safari to see gorillas was a long-held dream for her, ABC7 reported.
“My stomach has been in knots,” said Megan Barth, a friend, on Sunday. “I’ve been praying for her safety and her release daily.
“I am just so relieved for her and her family,” said Barth, a political commentator and radio personality who was Endicott’s skin care client for 10 years and became a friend. “I hope her captors did not physically harm her. I’m so thankful but still so worried about her, but she is such a strong woman and a beautiful soul she will come through this trauma.”
Staff writer Alicia Robinson contributed to this report.