Crime & InvestigationNews

Uganda: American Tourist’s Family Paid $20,000 to Kidnappers

The family of American national Kimbley Sue paid $20,000 (Shs 75m) to kidnappers to secure her release in Uganda, an official said on Monday.

“The ransom was negotiated for a period of five days between the family of Sue and Wild Frontiers on one side and the kidnappers,” said a high ranking official who preferred anonymity to speak freely.

Sue and field ranger Jean Paul Mirenge Remezo were taken across to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo as soon they were captured by gunmen in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

The abductors responded by demanding a ransom of $500,000 (Shs 1.8bn) which United States government refused to pay.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would not pay the ransom demanded by kidnapper.

“Please remember that any payment to a terrorist or a terrorist regime gives money so that they can seize more of our people,” Pompeo said.

“Even a small payment to a group in, say, Africa can facilitate the killing or seizure of tens or even hundreds of others, including Americans or foreign nationals in that region.”

However, the mobile phones of Sue and Mirenge were on which allowed the kidnappers to speak to the American’s family and Wild Frontiers.

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At the time, Ugandan forces were using drones and helicopters in the search for the hostages. They also had shut sections of the border.

But a tourism official said the militants in the area have good knowledge of the terrain and porous routes at the border hence being too slippery for security.

After intense negotiations, $20,000 was passed on to Wild Frontiers by Sue’s family before being delivered to kidnappers at the Uganda-DRC border.

Upon receiving the money, the kidnappers freed the hostages who crossed back into Uganda.

Hostage situation

Uganda’s security forces found Sue and Mirenge walking in the park hence facilitating their return to the lodge.

Asked why security forces were unable to intercept the kidnappers almost a week after the kidnap, a source observed: “Hostage situations are very delicate. If you mishandle negotiations, the hostage dies. All we wanted was securing the lives of the captives.”

The source further explained that in such situations, “security forces have to make sure they do not show kidnappers that they know their location. Once the kidnappers are scared, the hostage can be killed.”

Officials said Sue and Mirenge would be interviewed by security depending on their medical condition.

“The captives were traumatized, tired and hungry. They walked a long distance and lived in the forest. They need to be in a good state of mind before being interviewed. We hope to get more information about the kidnappers once we have interacted with the victims,” said a source.

Currently, the operation continues in the search for the kidnappers. President Museveni has since viewed to crush the masterminds of the kidnap.

“We shall deal with these isolated pockets of criminals,” said Museveni in a Monday morning tweet.

“However, I want to reassure the country and our tourists that Uganda is safe and we shall continue to improve the security in our parks. Come and enjoy the Pearl of Africa,” he added.

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