Uganda says its security forces are searching for a American tourist and local driver who were abducted at gunpoint late Tuesday in a national park.
Ugandan police have identified the American as 35-year-old Kimberly Sue Endecott and her driver as Jean Paul.
They say four unidentified gunmen kidnapped Paul and Endecott near a wilderness camp inside Queen Elizabeth National Park early Tuesday evening.
According to a statement, an elderly couple who were also held up but not taken alerted a park official to the abduction.
A statement Wednesday from Ugandan government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said police, soldiers and wildlife officials have launched a joint operation to locate and rescue the captives.
Uganda says the kidnappers, using the victim's mobile phone, have demanded a ransom of $500,000. "We strongly believe this is the reason behind the kidnap," police said.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is located in western Uganda, on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Uganda said it has closed border crossings with Congo in an effort to keep the kidnappers from fleeing.
A State Department spokesman said U.S. officials are aware of reports of the kidnapping.
"Security forces are responding to the incident. We have no further information to offer at this time," the spokesman told VOA.
In Washington Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with families of Americans who are detained abroad. He urged them not to give up hope but reiterated that the U.S. does not pay ransom money to free American citiziens.
“Please remember 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," Pompeo said.