Abducted workers not freed: embassy

Updated: 2012-01-31 07:39

By Hu Yinan (China Daily)

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Sudan rebels still hold 29 Chinese citizens despite report of release

BEIJING - None of the 29 Chinese workers abducted by rebels in the South Kordofan region of Sudan have been released, an embassy official said in Sudan on Monday despite Sudanese reports that 14 had been freed.

Details are slowly emerging of events that led to the abductions.

A group of 47 Chinese workers became separated on Saturday when their camp was attacked during a clash between the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army-North and the Sudanese military.

The rebels said that they decided to hold - not abduct - the 29 workers. These workers, the rebels said, are "in good hands".

The Sudanese army found 17 workers, from the original group of 47, and transferred them to safety, an embassy official told Xinhua News Agency. One Chinese worker remains missing.

"When the rebels attacked the company camp near Al-Abbasiya town in South Kordofan, there were 47 Chinese workers. Twenty-nine of them were abducted and 18 fled to neighboring areas," the official said.

"Search efforts are under way for the missing worker," he added.

Armed clashes in the oil-producing state, just north of newly independent South Sudan, have occurred frequently in recent months.

Neither the embassy official nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing confirmed a Sudanese report on Monday that 14 of the 29 workers had been "liberated" by Sudan's armed forces.

Sudan's SUNA news agency quoted Ahmed Haroun, governor of South Darfur state, as saying that the 14 workers were in good condition and had been evacuated to Al-Obeid city, the capital of North Kordofan state. The report did not elaborate.

Sudan People's Liberation Army spokesman Arno Taloudy, speaking from the Kenyan capital Nairobi, claimed that the 29 workers "have been transported to a safe area and they are in good health and in safe hands". The Sudan People's Liberation Army-North said it was holding the workers for their own safety.

An earlier Xinhua report cited an embassy official as saying that the abducted workers had "all communication links with the outside world cut".

An embassy official in Sudan said on Monday that the embassy sent a four-people work group to assist Sudanese authorities in the rescue of the 29 workers.

Their employer, Sinohydro Corp Ltd, has a $63 million road project in the area. It evacuated its remaining staff to safer locations. The company said it would also start evaluating the safety of, and improve security measures around, its other compounds in Sudan.

The Ministry of Commerce on Monday warned Chinese firms in Sudan of security risks. It urged them to improve security measures to ensure safety.

China is Africa's top trading partner and a major importer of Sudanese oil.