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Kimberly Endicott, U.S. woman kidnapped in Uganda, begins trip home after ransom payment

American kidnapped in Uganda returning home
American woman kidnapped on Uganda safari returning home 01:59

Entebbe, Uganda -- An American woman kidnapped in Uganda last week, who was freed on Sunday after a ransom was paid, has started her journey home. CBS News obtained video of California resident Kimberly Sue Endicott leaving the Inshasha Wilderness Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park on Monday by helicopter, headed for capital city Kampala.

The flight was the first leg of her journey home from Uganda after spending almost five days in captivity after being kidnapped with her guide on a safari holiday.

Endicott was brought back to the wilderness camp on Sunday night, where she rested, showered and ate.

CBS News correspondent Debora Patta reports that as she made it back to the camp, Endicott was barefoot, her pants were ripped and she appeared utterly depleted -- but she was safe.

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

Endicott was on safari in Uganda's famed Queen Elizabeth National Park. Just 30 minutes into the trip, her vehicle was attacked by armed gunmen. They robbed the occupants and abducted Endicott and safari guide Jean Paul Mirenge Remezo.  An elderly Canadian couple who were also in the vehicle were left unharmed and they were able to raise the alarm.

A massive Ugandan-led security operation was launched, and closely monitored by the U.S. State Department. Back at home in the U.S., family and friends prayed for a miracle.

"We were all very scared, hoping that nothing happened but also your mind kind of goes to a bad place sometimes," family friend Andrea Glasgow said.

The kidnappers used Remezo's phone to demand a $500,000 ransom. It was on that phone that daily "proof of life" calls were also made. Drones, helicopters and fire power were deployed in the park, but the victims had been taken across the border into the volatile Democratic Republic of Congo.

After five days of negotiations a ransom was paid, but the amount, and the donor, were still unknown on Monday.

Wild Frontiers, the company that organized Endicott's safari, sent a statement later Monday to CBS News producer Sarah Carter in which it referred to the process as a "negotiated handover, conducted between the Ugandan and U.S. authorities in order to return Kimberly and Jean-Paul unharmed."

The tour company said it had "provided as much assistance as possible to the authorities" and would continue "working with the investigating authorities to ascertain precisely what happened and how this can be prevented in the future."

President Trump called Monday on Ugandan officials to quickly apprehend the kidnappers and bring them to justice, saying people wouldn't "feel safe" visiting the country until that was done, but foreign tourists at Queen Elizabeth National Park didn't seem put off by the incident.

"I feel safe with the personnel here and I think everything is well organized," visitor Susanne Powarczynski told CBS News.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni sought to reassure tourists personally, insisting via his own Twitter account that, "Uganda is safe and we shall continue to improve the security in our parks. Come and enjoy the Pearl of Africa."

The Ishasha Wilderness Camp was officially back in business on Monday. Wild Frontiers sent CBS News a photo of a new group of tourists checking in, and being greeted personally by Queen Elizabeth National Park's chief warden Edward Asalo.

A tourist family is greeted by Queen Elizabeth National Park chief warden Edward Asalo (right) and a camp staff member (second from right) as they check in at the Inshasha Wilderness Camp, in Uganda, April 8, 2019. Wild Frontiers/Handout
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