Ethiopian police suspect hoax in reported kidnapping of Israeli

Officers detain and interrogate a man and woman suspected of kidnapping Francis Adbabayi, say he was not abducted

Screen capture from video of Ethiopian-Israeli Francis Adbabayi who was kidnapped for ransom in Ethiopia, July 2023. (Kan. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture from video of Ethiopian-Israeli Francis Adbabayi who was kidnapped for ransom in Ethiopia, July 2023. (Kan. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Police suspect that an alleged kidnapping of an Israeli citizen in Ethiopia is a hoax, Hebrew media reported Thursday.

On Wednesday, it was reported that Francis Adbabayi, 79, from Rishon Lezion, was being held for ransom after he was kidnapped in the Gondar region in northern Ethiopia. However, after detaining and interrogating a man and woman on suspicion of kidnapping Adbabayi, Ethiopian police announced that in fact no abduction had taken place.

Israeli police have opened an investigation to inquire whether it was a case of attempted fraud, Channel 12 news reported.

Adbabayi traveled to Ethiopia – his home country – a few weeks ago. He planned to stay there for a month and was due to leave next Monday.

According to reports, the kidnappers demanded 2.5 million Ethiopian birr, about NIS 160,000 ($44,000), for Adbabyi’s release.

“Please help me, my brothers and sisters, they have kidnapped me,” Adbabayi said in the recording, according to Hebrew media translations of his Amharic remarks. “Take my words seriously. See how they handcuffed me. Please help me.”

He described being in the middle of a forest, in the rain, with very poor sanitary conditions.

“I wouldn’t wish the nightmare that I am in even on my enemies,” Adbabayi said.

In a round of media interviews, two of his eight children begged for help in securing the release of their father.

“He is out in the open and he can die,” his son Avi said in an interview with Channel 12, noting his father’s frail condition and that it is winter in the African country.

Screen capture from video of Fernos, left, and Avi, the daughter and son of Ethiopian-Israel Francis Adbabayi who was kidnapped in Ethiopia, July 2023. (Channel 12. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

“It wasn’t easy to listen to that,” Avi said of the recording. “At first we didn’t believe that it was true and that something like this is happening. It is not a simple situation at all.”

Avi appealed to the Foreign Ministry to help in any way it can with Ethiopian authorities “so that our father doesn’t die for the sake of money.”

Daughter Fernos said her father had flown to Ethiopia for health reasons.

“On Wednesday, I spoke with him and then they grabbed him on Friday,” she said.

The Kan public broadcaster aired a recording of a conversation between Adbabayi’s family and the supposed kidnappers in which they discussed the ransom.

According to the report, the family initially hoped to resolve the issue themselves but were unable to do so, and so contacted Israeli authorities.

Family members were set to fly out to Ethiopia in the coming days, the network said.

Adbabayi’s nephew Mula Tzgaya told the Ynet news site that a person who was accompanying Adbabayi on the trip is behind the kidnapping.

Tzgaya alleged that the man was under the impression that his uncle was rich and so conspired to kidnap him with his accomplices.

The family said that they do not have the funds to pay the ransom.

Most Popular
read more: