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American kidnapped in Uganda rescued unharmed after 5-day ordeal

An American who was kidnapped along with her guide in Uganda last week has been recovered unharmed. The pair were recovered along the border with the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and were expected to fly out on Monday morning, CBS News has learned.

Kimberly Sue Endicott, 56, and field guide Jean-Paul Mirenge Remezo were taken hostage at gunpoint while on safari in Uganda's Queen Elizabeth National Park last Tuesday. Their four kidnappers had demanded a $500,000 ransom and at least some of that amount was paid to secure their release, sources confirmed to CBS News. The abductors used Endicott's phone to negotiate her release and were in contact with authorities nearly every day since her capture, officials said.

The Uganda Police Force said the pair were rescued during a joint operation and were in "good health." A spokesman for the Ugandan government said Ugandan security forces were involved in the operation to rescue them. The two were brought back to the lodge where she had been staying, but left there on Monday morning by helicopter, headed for the capital city of Kampala.  

She was accompanied on the helicopter by U.S. Embassy officials after being debriefed. It wasn't clear when she would fly out of Uganda. 

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Kimberly Endicott with a Ugandan commando shortly after she and her driver were rescued April 7, 2019. Obtained by CBS News

The kidnappers managed to escape after the rescue, and Ugandan forces were still searching for them. 

Wild Frontiers Uganda, which operates the lodge in the park where Endicott was staying, released photos of Endicott and Remezo on Sunday meeting with Paul Goldring, the company's managing director.

The kidnapping spurred a massive search effort along the edge of the park, which borders the DRC. The park is one of 10 national parks in Uganda, where tourism remains a major driver of the economy. Hundreds of thousands of visitors travel to the parks each year.

Endicott, an esthetician, runs a skin care clinic in Costa Mesa, California.

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Kimberly Endicott shakes hands with Paul Goldring of Wild Frontiers Uganda on April 7, 2019. Wild Frontiers

Andrea Glasgow told CBS News that Endicott is a "free spirit" and liked to travel solo.

"I want to hear about what happened, you know," Glasgow said. "You're so independent you go over there by yourself? Scary."

CBS News was told money was paid to secure the pair's release, though it was significantly less than what was first demanded. Some are questioning whether paying the ransom put a price on other Americans who are traveling abroad.

"We have seen where the lapses are, we will ensure that those are closed," Sam Mwandha, executive director of Uganda Wildlife Authority, told CBS News. "We can assure everybody who comes to visit that Uganda is safe, our parks are safe, and they can continue coming."

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A photo provided by the Wild Frontiers tour company on April 8, 2019, shows American tourist Kimberly Endicott and field guide Jean-Paul Mirenge Remezo a day after they were rescued following a kidnap by unknown gunmen in Uganda's Queen Elizabeth National Park.  Wild Frontiers/Handout

CBS News producer Sarah Carter contributed reporting from Uganda.

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