This is the first incident of its kind to happen in "such a very peaceful setting," a Uganda police spokesperson said

By Harriet Sokmensuer
April 05, 2019 02:41 PM
Kimberly Endicott

An American tourist and her tour guide were kidnapped by armed men in the African nation of Uganda and are being held for ransom, PEOPLE confirms.

Kimberly Endicott was on an evening game drive through Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park Tuesday when armed gunmen jumped on her vehicle, Uganda police announced in a press release obtained by PEOPLE. At gunpoint, the men kidnapped Endicott and her guide Jean-Paul Mirenge Remezo, who was behind the wheel, and fled the scene.

An elderly couple who was also in the vehicle were able to escape and contact the camp manager to report what had happened.

The kidnappers used Endicott’s cell phone to demand $500,000. The ransom is believed to be the motive for the kidnapping.

Authorities say they have no plan to pay the ransom. The U.S. Embassy in Kampala is working with Ugandan authorities to recover Endicott and Remezo.

Endicott, who is in her 50s, is from Costa Mesa, California. She has a daughter and granddaughter who also live in California, a friend told local station TKLA. She always dreamed of going to Africa to see gorillas on safari.

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“I know she was planning this trip for a while, because it’s something that she’s always wanted to do,” Pam Lopez told the station in a phone interview. “This was always a big trip she wanted to take.”

Lopez said Endicott had been documenting her trip on social media.

“She had been posting pictures of her trip up until — it looks like two days ago, which brings it to Tuesday, which I believe is the day she got kidnapped,” Lopez said.

All exit areas on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been closed. Endicott, her guide and her abductors are believed to be “trapped” somewhere within police’s search area, Uganda Deputy Police Spokeswoman Polly Namaye said in the press release.