Eight suspects are arrested over kidnapping of American grandmother on safari as it’s claimed she was released on the border on a motorbike after the Ugandan government paid $30,000 for her safe return
Kim Endicott from Orange County, California was kidnapped from a Uganda safari park on April 2 and held five days by four gunmen who demanded $500,000 for her release
She was released on the border on a motorbike on Sunday after the Ugandan government paid $30,000 ransom
Ugandan police announced they have arrested eight suspects on Tuesday
The arrests were the results of raids in an area of western Uganda
Kim Endicott, 56, was flown out of the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda on Monday
The Ugandan Minister of Tourism confirmed on Monday that his government paid for her to be freed, earlier reported to be $30,000 in Ugandan media
She was reportedly driven to the Congolese border on a motorbike after someone else made the cash drop off
Released: US tourist Kim Endicott [left], and her driver Jean Paul Mirenge Remezo [right] were kidnapped on April 2 and released five days later. They are shown on Monday before she departed the wilderness lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park for the Ugandan capital
Ugandan police have arrested eight people in connection with the kidnapping of an American grandmother who was freed on Sunday after spending five days being held against her will. Endicott from Costa Mesa, California, where she has a small skin care shop, reportedly has begun her journey home
They were taken into custody during raids in the Kanugu district which is near the Queen Elizabeth National Park where Kim Endicott was captured on April 2 by four armed men.
The identities of the alleged kidnappers have not been released.
According to Ugandan police, they have ‘strong ties’ to kidnapping and had been planning their attack.
Their arrests came as it was claimed that the Ugandan government paid $30,000 for the 56-yer-old grandmother from California to be freed despite repeated denials from the police that they complied with the kidnapper’s demands.
The country’s Minister of Tourism, Kiwanda Godfrey Ssuubi, confirmed that his country paid for her to be freed.
In an interview with NBS, a television network in Uganda, he said: ‘It had to be taken. The money had to be taken. Money is money.
‘Our first priority, number one, was to make sure they were safe. I don’t think it should be turned into a very big situation,’ he said.
NBS reports that Endicott was dropped off at the Congolese border on a motorbike after someone dropped off the $30,000 in cash. The Ugandan Police Force announced the arrests on Twitter on Tuesday and said that they were the results of raids in the Kanungu district, an area in western Uganda which is close to the Queen Elizabeth National Park where Kim Endicott was staying.
In its tweet, the Ugandan Police Force said: ‘The intelligence led operation which was calculated and tactical, in the early stages is now progressing unhindered, with raids and extensive searches in Kanungu district, where the suspects were arrested and the neighboring areas.
‘We want to applaud the Joint Security team, for ensuring the kidnapping incident, where the captors were armed, in a very dynamic setting, did not go wrong, and for their break through in attempts to crack down, the criminal gang,’ Enanga Fred, the force’s spokesman, said in the announcement.
Endicott, 56, was released on Sunday with her driver, Jean Paul Mirenge Remezo, 48.
They were taken at gunpoint by four armed kidnappers on April 2 during an evening game ride.
Their kidnappers had demanded a $500,000 ransom which both the US and the Ugandan government refused to pay.
Wild Frontiers Safari, the tour company she was with, has also insisted that it did not paut up the ransom money, despite cinsinuations fromultiple sources that they did.
The State Department refused to share details of her rescue or her return to the US citing a ‘privacy considerations’ which prevent them from commenting.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that the US, as a matter of policy, did not give in to kidnappers’ demands. Ugandan officials also denied paying any of the ransom to secure her release on Monday.
‘I have indicated to you that we don’t do ransom,’ Ugandan police spokesman Fred Enanga said at a press conference.
Endicott and her driver were dropped off at the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday after days of negotiations.
The safari company spokesman, confirmed that for the past week, the US and Ugandan authorities had been working together out of its lodge to try to reach a peaceful solution but that it was the American authorities which led the effort.
He likened it to a ‘circus at the lodge’, adding: ‘There wasn’t a single moment we weren’t on tenterhooks.’
He said he did not know who paid for Endicott’s release but that it was ‘of course’, a possibility it was either the US or Uganda.
‘It’s pretty obvious something happened but there was never $500,000 or any amount paid by us.
‘There’s a lot of problems in Uganda with this. Everybody’s terrified that this is going to make us a target,’ he said.
He also angrily denied that it is a rule in Uganda that an armed ranger has to accompany tourists on safaris, a claim made by Uganda Wildlife Authority last week.
Its spokesman said ‘you’re supposed to have’ armed guards while taking a game drive but the tour company Endicott was with denied that it is a rule.
‘They are trying to cast the safari company in a bad light. There is no such regulation.
‘This was a one off, isolated incident where four guys decided it was a great way to make money,’ he said.
Prior to the abduction Endicott [left] had shared an image on Instagram of four armed guards and had been posting about her trip
His comments come after multiple unnamed sources said it was the tour group which had paid for her to be released.
‘Otherwise she wouldn’t be back,’ one tour worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press.
Tour guide company driver Jean-Paul Mirenge Remezo, 48, was also freed on Sunday. The Tour company allegedly paid to release the abducted pair near the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Others confirmed to CBS that it was Wildlife Frontiers Uganda which paid Endicott’s ransom.
Endicott and her driver were taken hostage on April 2 and were transported across the border to Congo. They were part of a group night safari when they were taken.
It was the first night of her trip and hers was the first vehicle in a convoy of many which were taking part in an evening safari when she was snatched.
The wildlife company spokesman said there was ‘no way’ the four kidnappers could have been watching her in advance because it was her first night.