By Sarah Pawlowski
On April 7, an American tourist and her guide were rescued unharmed after being kidnapped in a Ugandan national park several days earlier, according to Reuters.
Kimberly Sue Endicott and her Colongese guide, Jean Paul Mirenge, were taken at gunpoint from Queen Elizabeth National Park on April 2, according to USA Today. The publication, which identified the park as “‘Uganda’s most popular tourist destination,’” also reported that a Canadian couple spending time in the park alongside Endicott and Mirenge was robbed but ultimately left behind.
The kidnappers asked for a $500,000 ransom in order to secure the pair’s freedom, according to Reuters. CNN reported that an unnamed source “with knowledge of the exchange” confirmed the ransom as paid. According to USA Today, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed that “the United States does not pay ransom for its citizens.”
According to CNN, four men were responsible for the ambush and kidnapping. One kidnapper fled the scene as law enforcement and military officials arrived at the rescue site in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In the wake of the kidnapping, forces rushed together to free Endicott and Mirenge. Ugandan authorities were aided by U.S. “intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets and liaison officers,” CNN reported.
The incident sparked international responses from world leaders, including President Donald Trump, who took to Twitter, expressing that the kidnappers must be found before people could feel safe enough to visit the country, according to The New York Times.
CNN reported that upon the release of the pair, Trump tweeted, “‘Pleased to report that the American tourist and tour guide that were abducted in Uganda have been released. God bless them and their families!’”
The incident brought to light the potential dangers that come with traveling and generated important conversations about security worldwide. As reported by Business Insider, in the days after the pair’s rescue, the U.S. Department of State announced a new risk indicator for American travelers.
The department currently utilizes a four-level system of travel advisories, according to Business Insider. Level one advises travelers to “exercise normal precautions.” Level two urges travelers to “exercise increased caution.” Level three urges travelers to “reconsider travel.” Finally, level level discourages travel completely, according to the State Department’s official website. Uganda is now a level two.
While social and political climates within countries are apt to change, the recent unsettling occurrence in Uganda may result in the country being watched by governments and anxious travelers worldwide.