An Israeli citizen who was abducted in Ethiopia some three weeks ago has been freed and reunited with his children, Channel 12 News reported on Monday.
Ethiopian special forces were able to liberate Francis Adbabayi, 79, from Rishon Lezion, following a “pursuit and shootout” with his kidnappers near the country’s northwestern border.
The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem initially believed that Adebabayi faked his own abduction in an effort to keep the ransom, with the Israel Police opening an investigation for suspected fraud.
Israeli authorities suspected fraud after coming to believe that Adebabayi had answered phone calls from Israeli numbers. However, “it soon turned out that the information in the hands of the Foreign Ministry was incorrect,” Channel 12 said on Monday.
The kidnappers had demanded 2.5 million Ethiopian birr, about 164,000 shekels ($45,000), for his release.
Adbabayi‘s relatives said earlier this month that his alleged abductors had sent them a recorded message, pictures and a short video clip of him bound at the hands and feet and guarded by an armed man.
“Help me. I’m in the middle of the jungle. It’s raining hard. Help me. … This trouble I wouldn’t wish upon my enemies,” Adbabayi said in the recording.
Disappointed with the Foreign Ministry’s handling of the case, Adbabayi’s family turned to Knesset member and former Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (National Unity), whose contacts were able to mobilize Ethiopia’s “special and secret forces.”
The Ethiopian-Israeli Adbabayi is currently staying in Gondar, where he was reunited with his two sons who traveled to the country. He is expected to fly home to Israel on Tuesday.