American woman kidnapped from Ugandan national park

KAMPALA, April 3 (Reuters) - An American woman and her Ugandan driver have been kidnapped from Queen Elizabeth National Park in southwest Uganda by gunmen demanding a ransom of $500,000, police said on Wednesday.

Kimberley Sue Endecott, 35, and Ugandan driver Jean Paul were on a game drive when their vehicle was ambushed by four gunmen on Tuesday evening, a police statement said.

An elderly couple who were also at the scene were not taken, and they raised the alarm, the police said.

RELATED: High-profile kidnapping cases

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High-profile kidnapping cases through the years
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High-profile kidnapping cases through the years

Elizabeth Smart

Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2002 when she was 14. She was found nine months later after she was recognized while out in public with her captors. Brian David Mitchell was convicted of kidnapping and raping Smart and was sentenced to life in prison in 2011. Mitchell's estranged wife, Wanda Barzee, admitted to her role in the kidnapping and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

(Photo by Douglas C. Pizac-Pool/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Jaycee Lee Dugard

Phillip and Nancy Garrido abducted Jaycee Lee Dugard in 1991 near Lake Tahoe when she was 11 and held her captive for 18 years. Dugard was forced to live in tents and sheds behind Garrido's home in California. She was found in 2009 after Garrido brought her to his parole meeting and investigators became suspicious. Phillip Garrido reportedly raped her for years and fathered two children with her. Phillip was sentenced to 431 years to life in prison and his wife was sentenced to 36 years to life.  

Nancy Garrido
(Photo by El Dorado County Sheriff via Getty Images)
Jaycee Lee Dugard
(Photo by Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Phillip Garrido
(Photo by El Dorado County Sheriff via Getty Images)

Charles Lindbergh, Jr.

Charles Lindbergh Jr., the son of the American aviator, was kidnapped from his home in March 1932. A ladder was used to climb up to the baby's bedroom and a ransom note was left behind. The infant's body was later discovered near the Lindbergh's mansion in New Jersey. Bruno Richard Hauptmann was convicted of murder and was later executed by electric chair.

Charles Lindbergh Jr.
(Photo by BIPS/Getty Images)

Bruno Richard Hauptmann
(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Caylee Anthony

3-year-old Caylee Anthony was last seen alive on June 16, 2008. She wasn't reported missing until a month later when her mother, Casey Anthony, told investigators that a babysitter kidnapped her. The young girl's remains were found in a wooded-area in December 2008. Casey Anthony stood trial for her daughter's murder but was acquitted.

Caylee Anthony
(Photo by Orlando Sentinel/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)

Casey Anthony
(Photo by Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)

Natascha Kampusch

Natascha Kampusch vanished when she was 10-years-old in 1998 while walking to school. The woman broke free on August 23, 2006, after living for eight years in a small basement area under a garage next to the suspected kidnappers house in Strasshof, 15 miles outside of the capital Vienna. The suspect, Wolfgang Priklopil committed suicide after Kampusch managed to escape.

(REUTERS/HO/Police)

Carlina White

Carlina White, seen here as a baby and adult, was kidnapped from Harlem Hospital in 1987. As she grew up she began to question if the woman who was raising her was actually her mother. After doing some research she discovered a picture of herself when she was an infant on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website and was eventually reunited with her family 23 years later. The woman who abducted her, Ann Pettway, was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

(Photo by NY Daily News via Getty Images)
 

Relisha Rudd

8-year-old Relisha Rudd disappeared on March 1, 2014. She was last seen spending time with the janitor of the homeless shelter where she stayed with her mother. That man, Kahlil Tatum later killed himself but Relisha has never been found.

(Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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The identity of the kidnappers was unclear. The Somali Islamist militant group al Shabaab has carried out attacks in Uganda in the past, but has never kidnapped anyone for ransom there.

The park, Uganda's most visited, is located about 400 km (250 miles) southwest of the capital Kampala, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), home to many fragmented rebel groups.

Police said initial indications were that the kidnapping was financially motivated, since the group had quickly made a demand using Endecott's cellphone.

"We strongly believe this ransom is the reason behind this kidnap," they said. "The Joint Security teams have cut off all exit areas on the border between Uganda and the DRC in search of the victims."

The police believe the group may still be in the park, their statement said.

The U.S. embassy in Kampala said it would be issuing a statement later.

In 1999, an American couple, four Britons and two New Zealanders were killed along with four Ugandan guides when their group was ambushed by gunmen in Uganda's Bwidi Impenetrable Forest. Survivors said the killers appeared to be Hutu rebels based in Congo.

Bwidi Forest begins about 20 km (12 miles) south of Queen Elizabeth National Park. (Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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