Sudanese Rebels Free Abducted Chinese Workers

Posted February 7th, 2012 at 7:40 am (UTC-5)
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Sudanese rebels have released a group of Chinese workers kidnapped 10 days ago in Southern Kordofan state.

Sudan's foreign ministry said Tuesday that the workers were being flown by a Red Cross plane to Kenya, where they will be handed over to Chinese embassy officials. The ministry did not indicate how many workers were freed.

Twenty-nine workers were abducted in late January following a rebel attack on a camp operated by a Chinese road construction company. Seventeen workers managed to escape, while one worker went missing.

On Monday, China's Xinhua news agency said Sudanese authorities handed over the body of the missing worker who was killed following the attack.

The abduction was carried out by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North, which operates along Sudan's border with newly-independent South Sudan.

The rebels have traditionally been aligned with the south. Government forces and the rebels have been fighting in the Nuba Mountains since June, prompting thousands to flee into South Sudan for safety.

China's growing economic involvement in Africa includes oil drilling and road projects in insecure areas often considered too dangerous to operate in by Western companies.

Sudanese officials say China has more than 100 companies and 10,000 personnel working in the country.

China is also the largest buyer of Sudanese oil and has tried to help the two Sudans settle a bitter dispute over oil revenue. The south took over the bulk of Sudanese oil production when it became independent in July but relies on northern pipelines for export.