Two women tourists rescued from kidnappers in Ecuador near its border with Colombia are receiving medical attention in the capital, Quito, the country’s interior minister said on Sunday.
The pair – named by Ecuadorean officials as Kathryn Cox, a 23-year-old Briton, and Fiona Wilde, a 32-year-old Australian, are “in good spirits”, according to José Serrano in a series of tweets.
Police and armed forces are continuing their search to find the delincuentes – criminals or bandits – responsible. Serrano said the women were “in good condition”. The Foreign Office in London confirmed the women’s identities and that they had been rescued. A spokesperson said: “We are very pleased to be able to confirm that Kathryn Sara Cox, who was kidnapped in a remote part of Sucumbios province, Ecuador, on Friday 28 September has been found today: 30 September. She, along with an Australian national, was found following an intensive search of the area by the police and military.
“She is now in the care of Ecuadorean and UK officials, and her health and safety is our top priority. We are giving full consular assistance to both her and her family.
“We are grateful to the Ecuadorean authorities for recovering Kathryn and her companion, and are working with them to establish the facts of what happened and who was responsible.”
The pair were abducted while travelling by canoe in a group of seven – five foreigners and two Ecuadoreans – and two local guides in the Cuyabeno nature reserve in Sucumbios province on Friday. The other foreigners were not taken in the attack, which the BBC reported as having been carried out by a Colombian group.
The incident is likely to make the Foreign Office consider strengthening its travel advice for the region. It already warns that Colombian guerrilla groups and criminal gangs have influence in all areas of Sucumbios. In July 2002, a British oil worker and his driver were kidnapped and later killed.
Canberra’s department of foreign affairs said the Australian woman was in the care of Ecuadorean authorities. “The Australian consul from our embassy in Santiago, Chile, is travelling to Ecuador to provide consular assistance,” said a spokeswoman. Consular officers have been in regular contact with the woman’s family in Australia.
The incident comes as Britain and Ecuador are involved in a diplomatic standoff over Julian Assange‘s attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning over alleged sex crimes.
The WikiLeaks founder has been in Ecuador’s embassy in London since June.
Australian government travel advice for the area “strongly advises” its citizens not to go to Sucumbios and other north-eastern provinces because of the “very high level of serious criminal activity”.
A number of foreign workers have been kidnapped, and one killed, it says. It also says armed criminals have robbed travellers staying at jungle lodges in the lower Rio Napo and Cuyabeno national reserves.