A California woman and her tour guide who were kidnapped in Uganda by a group of armed men were released Sunday after their ransom was paid, according to reports.
Kim Sue Endicott and Jean-Paul Mirenge Remezo were held hostage for five days by captors who demanded $500,000.
The pair were on safari in Queens Elizabeth National Park, which is generally regarded as safe for tourists, when they were kidnapped at gunpoint on Tuesday night.
The suspects left behind two other tourists who Ugandan police said was an elderly couple.
The safari company the group was traveling with, Wild Frontiers, fronted the ransom though it’s unclear how much they paid, the New York Times reported.
Endicott and Remezo, a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were dropped off at a location near the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, a Wild Frontiers official told The Times.
The two were currently “enjoying a square meal and hot shower” at a wilderness camp run by Wild Frontiers, the official said.
Other details of their release or the their time in captivity were not immediately released.
“Security services have this evening managed to rescue kidnapped U.S. citizen Kimberly Sue Endicott and her driver Jean Paul Mirenge,” the Ugandan government tweeted. “Appreciation goes to @PoliceUg and sister security agencies that led the operation to return Sue and Jean Paul.”
The US historically refuses to pay ransom in hostage situations, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterating last week that doing so would just lead to more kidnappings.
“Please remember that any payment to a terrorist or a terrorist regime gives money so that they can seize more of our people,” Pompeo said at a Tuesday event for families of US citizens held captive overseas. “Even a small payment to a group in, say, Africa can facilitate the killing or seizure of tens or even hundreds of others, including Americans or foreign nationals in that region.”
The rescue of Endicott, who owns a skin-care shop in Costa Mesa, comes after her family demanded the US government to step up their efforts.
“I heard our Secretary of State get on there and say we don’t pay ransom. OK, fine,” said her cousin, Rich Endicott. “Then get the Navy SEALS, get them on a plane and go save her. Don’t pay ransom, I’m good with that. But he didn’t say any of those things, and maybe they’re doing those things, but who knows.”
Endicott and Remezo were ambushed in a protected area near the Congo border.
The Uganda Police Force also tweeted about their release on Sunday.
“The duo are in good health & in the safe hands of the joint security team,” the police wrote.