Uganda's police spokesperson Fred Enanga addresses the media on the rescue of American tourist Kimberly Sue Endecott, who was abducted by gunmen in Queen Elizabeth National Park, at the police headquarters in Kampala, Uganda, April 8, 2019.
Uganda's police spokesperson Fred Enanga addresses the media on the rescue of American tourist Kimberly Sue Endecott, who was abducted by gunmen in Queen Elizabeth National Park, at the police headquarters in Kampala, Uganda, April 8, 2019.

VOA's Carla Babb contributed to this report from the Pentagon; James Butty of VOA's English to Africa Service contributed from Washington.

Ugandan police deny a ransom was paid to free an American tourist and her driver, who were rescued in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday, five days after their abduction in a Ugandan national park.

American tourist Kimberly Sue Endecott and her Ugandan driver Jean Paul were taken hostage by gunmen last Tuesday afternoon in Queen Elizabeth National Park, which borders Congo.

Ugandan police spokesman Fred Enanga gave few details about how Endecott and Paul were rescued.

"This was a high-risk operation and we had identified the hideout," Enanga said. "The pressure was there of a last resort move in, that there was an implicit threat of the use of force by our elite teams that we had on ground. But as the police and the government of Uganda, we don't do ransom."

Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda

He said neither captive was harmed. Endecott was handed over to the U.S. ambassador to Uganda on Monday afternoon.

Enanga said the operation to arrest the kidnappers was continuing with support from the Congolese security.

On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump pressed for the hostage-takers' capture, tweeting, "Uganda must find the kidnappers of the American tourist and guide before people will feel safe in going there. Bring them to justice openly and quickly."

U.S. defense officials said the U.S. military was not asked for assistance but, nonetheless, provided drones for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support.

The Ugandan police spokesman used the opportunity to warn future kidnappers.

"The successful recovery of the captives serves as a reminder to those enemies who want to harm our own people, including visitors, that we will do everything possible within our means to defend them," Enanga said.

This was the first kidnapping of any foreign tourists in Uganda in 20 years. In 1999, armed Hutu fighters from Congo entered Bwindi Park and killed eight tourists and four Ugandans.

Tourism minister: 'An isolated case'

Ephraim Kamuntu, Uganda's minister of tourism, told VOA in a phone interview that Americans shouldn't be dissuaded from visiting the East African country. "What happened was an isolated case," he said. The incident shouldn't "be taken as a trend. Uganda is secure, Uganda is peaceful, Uganda is stable, and it has been so for the last three decades."

He emphasized safety for tourists, saying, "We have a whole Uganda Wildlife Authority with almost 5,000 rangers guarding national parks."

After a brief meeting with security officials Monday morning. Uganda President Yoweri Museveni tweeted that the country would deal with these "isolated pockets" of criminals.

He also promised that security would be improved in the parks.