An armed gang of four men ambushed a safari this week and reportedly kidnapped an American tourist and her local driver in Uganda’s popular Queen Elizabeth National Park, which borders the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Several news outlets reported that the search continues.
While the U.S. State Department declined to identify the American woman, Reuters reported that she is Kimberley Sue Endecott.
Despite the kidnappers’ repeated demands for the ransom, Uganda police said Thursday it would not be paid.
“They (the abductors) continue to use cell phones of the victims to call the lodge they were staying asking for $500,000 ransom, which we will not offer,” Polly Namaye, a spokeswoman for the Uganda Deputy Police reportedly said.
The kidnappers took the American tourist and her driver hostage on Tuesday at the Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Rather than paying the captors, the Police intend to intensify the hunt for the abductors and have closed the areas where the deadly incident took place.
“We want to inform the public and all visitors in the country that the joint security teams have cut off all exit areas on the border between Uganda and the DRC in search for the victims,” Namaye said.
The police spokeswoman noted that law enforcement agencies in Uganda are working with the U.S. embassy in the capital of Kampala to rescue the captives, whom local police believe are still in Uganda.
“We are aware of reports of a US citizen kidnapped in Uganda. Security forces are responding to the incident. We have no further information to offer at this time,” a U.S. Department of State (DOS) spokesperson told ABC News.
According to the Washington Post, local security officials are intensifying the search for the captives.
“Ugandan police said Wednesday that they had dispatched an elite group of police officers, military personnel and wildlife authority officials to assist in the search. The park where the ambush occurred is a popular tourist destination close to the border with Congo,” the Post reported.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the families of the victims this week and emphasized that “any payment to a terrorist or a terrorist regime gives money so that they can seize more of our people.”
“We cannot accept that risk. You wouldn’t ask that of us,” he added. “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.”
“Uganda recorded a spike in domestic kidnap cases last year prompting street protests by activists who said security agencies were not doing enough to protect the citizens,” ABC News noted.