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An Israeli national who is stationed in Africa as part of his job with the Solel Boneh civil engineering firm was abducted yesterday, in all likelihood by local criminals who are demanding a $170,000 ransom.

According to reports, the Israeli was being driven by a local resident in a car when four armed individuals forced the vehicle to stop. The alleged kidnappers then ordered the driver to flee the scene before taking the Israeli man into captivity. The alleged abductors then demanded that the company which employs him pay a sum of money in exchange for his release.

Foreign Ministry officials asked that the name of the African country in which the incident took place remain anonymous for fear that Islamic extremists would try to reach the abductors and kidnap the Israeli themselves. Officials said that the kidnapping was likely not related to the Israeli's nationality, since ransom abductions are common in the area where it occurred.

The abduction of foreigners has proven to be a profitable business that has grown in recent years. Kidnappers often pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom money. It is believed that upwards of 12,000 people are kidnapped every year.

In August 2008, Israeli businessman Ehud Avni was kidnapped by gunmen in Nigeria. Two weeks later, he was released, though it is not known whether a ransom was paid.

Last week, another Solel Boneh employee was abducted in Guatemala. He was released one day later, after the company agreed to the ransom demands of the kidnappers.

Liel Kyzer contributed to this report.