Kidnappers in Uganda seek $500,000 ransom for US tourist

Ugandan soldiers are hunting the gunmen, who abducted the pair around dusk on Tuesday.
KASESE, UGANDA – NOVEMBER 29: Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) and Ugandan Police patrol around the Rwesororo village of Kasese region in Uganda on November 29, 2016. Heavy fighting broke out Saturday in the western town of Kasese, home to King Charles Wesley Mumbere of the Rwenzururu kingdom, when his royal guards attacked patrolling security forces, killing 14 police officers and 41 militants. The Rwenzururu kingdom is a traditional monarchy based near the Rwenzori mountains which straddle Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, of the Bakonzo people — with supporters among those who share the same culture and language in the DRC. Lubowa Abubaker / Anadolu Agency

Gunmen who kidnapped an American tourist and her driver in a Ugandan national park have demanded a ransom of $500,000, police said as they launched a hunt for the perpetrators.

“The kidnappers, using the victim’s phone, have demanded $500,000. We strongly believe this ransom is the reason behind the kidnap,” said a statement from police spokeswoman Polly Namaye.

The Ugandan government in a previous statement said the kidnap happened at a national park close to the country’s border with Democratic Republic of Congo, government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said early Wednesday.

Ugandan soldiers are hunting the gunmen, who abducted the pair around dusk on Tuesday.

“Four armed men, not yet identified, between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm, staged an ambush and kidnapped an American tourist with his Ugandan driver near Katoke Gate in the Queen Elizabeth National Park,” Opondo said in a statement. But in subsequent releases the gender of the American was given as a female.

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“A joint operation by the Uganda police, Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and Uganda Wildlife Authority Game Wardens is underway to locate and rescue them,” Opondo added.

“The priority at this point is to locate, rescue and bring them back to safely.”

Four other tourists, who were present when the gunmen attacked but were not abducted or physically harmed, managed to raise the alarm from the lodge where they were staying.

Queen Elizabeth National Park, one of the East African nation’s most famous wildlife reserves, runs along the frontier with conflict-wracked regions of DR Congo, bordering its famous Virunga national park, Africa’s oldest national park

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Numerous militia groups and armed gangs roam eastern DR Congo. Virunga suspended all tourism activities last year following the kidnapping of two British tourists. The Britons and their driver were freed two days after the attack.

Queen Elizabeth, in southwestern Uganda lies some 150 kilometres (90miles) north of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, famous among tourists for gorilla trekking.

In 1999, Rwandan rebels killed eight foreign tourists there, inflicting an enormous blow to Uganda’s  tourist industry.


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