The American woman who was kidnapped during a Uganda safari trip and held for five days before being freed in exchange for $30,000 has spoken out about her ordeal for the first time.
Kimberly Endicott, 56, was snatched from her jeep in the Queen Elizabeth National Park along with her driver on April 2.
She was held for five days by a group of kidnappers before being dropped off on the border between Uganda and Congo in exchange for a ransom paid by the Ugandan government.
Eight people were arrested in connection with her kidnapping in the days that followed.
In her first interview about the ordeal, she told CBS’s Gayle King how she did not immediately realize that her four kidnappers were there to take her when they emerged from a ‘perfectly square bush’ during an evening game ride.
When their intentions became apparent, she said she felt ‘pure fear’ and ‘terror’.
‘All of a sudden, the four men come out of a perfectly square bush in front of us. My first thought was, there must be something happening behind us and these are rangers,’ Endicott, who lives in California, said.
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Kimberly Endicott spoke for the first time since being freed by her kidnappers in an interview on CBS This Morning on Thursday
She said that because they were armed, her first thought was that they worked for Wild Frontiers, the tour company she was with.
‘They’re armed. They have guns. I’ve been gorilla trekking with rangers that have guns.
‘There were [alarm bells] but there were alarm bells of something must be behind us.
‘Looking at them it became apparent pretty quickly that no, that’s not what this is.
‘They were not in uniform, they were rag tag.
‘They were a little bit of everything. And then they made us get out of the vehicle,’ she said.
‘They make us get out of the vehicle, they make us sit on the ground. And that’s where things go very um, I don’t know how to describe it.
‘There’s really not a word to describe what that feels like. Pure fear. But that almost doesn’t do it justice,’ she said.
King asked if what she felt was ‘terror’, to which she replied: ‘That’s closer maybe.
‘But this weird whiteness, brightness, again I don’t really have a good word for it but I just sat there and just faced forward and sat there and they went in and ransacked the vehicle and took out anything that was of value to them and then came back.
Kim Endicott and her driver Jean Paul Mirenge Remezo were kidnapped on April 2 and released five days later. They are shown before she departed the wilderness lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park for the Ugandan capital after being freed
The kidnappers were arrested in the Kanugu district on Tuesday in raids
‘The elderly couple I don’t believe were sitting down.
‘They were like in their later 70s, the gentlemen had a cane and they let them stay and then boom – it felt like a vortex sucking us in.
‘When I think back about it, it felt like whoosh and that’s it. We’re off,’ she said.
The elderly couple were not taken with Endicott and her driver. So far, details of how they were treated while in captivity have not been shared.
Her full interview will air on CBS on Friday morning.
Endicott’s release came after five days of negotiations and deliberation between the safari company she was staying with, the US government and Ugandan officials.
Initially, the kidnappers had requested a $500,000 ransom which all parties flatly rejected.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated unequivocally that the US would not meet the kidnappers’ demands as a matter of policy.
DailyMail.com obtained footage of the moment Endicott returned to camp, barefoot, on April 9 after being dropped off at the Congolese border. She was helped inside by armed guards
Endicott is pictured on April 9, immediately after arriving back at the lodge, following her resce
When she was suddenly released on April 9, the resounding question was who paid for her freedom.
Driver Jean-Paul Mirenge Remezo, 48, was also freed on Sunday
Wild Frontiers, the company she was with, vehemently denied putting up the money as did Ugandan police officials.
‘It’s pretty obvious something happened but there was never $500,000 or any amount paid by us.
‘There’s a lot of problems in Uganda with this. Everybody’s terrified that this is going to make us a target,’ a company director, who did not want to be named, told DailyMail.com.
However the country’s Minister for tourism soon admitted that they paid.
In an interview with NBS, a television network in Uganda, he said: ‘It had to be taken. The money had to be taken. Money is money.
‘Our first priority, number one, was to make sure they were safe. I don’t think it should be turned into a very big situation,’ he said.
President Trump was among those who called for her safe return.
He tweeted: ‘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!’