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29 Chinese workers captured by Sudanese rebels

29 Chinese workers captured by Sudanese rebels

The 29 Chinese workers were caught up in a battle between the rebels and the Sudanese Army.

Beijing: Sudanese rebels attacked a camp belonging to a Chinese company in the troubled south Kordofan state of Sudan, taking hostage 29 Chinese workers amidst a battle with the Army. Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed that a camp belonging to a Chinese firm was attacked by rebels and several Chinese nationals "have gone missing" after that.

The camp was attacked by local militants on Saturday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Weimin said in response to a question from the press without disclosing the number of Chinese missing.

"The Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Chinese Embassy to Sudan have initiated an emergency response to the incident," he said.

Reports from Sudan said that the rebels in the volatile region say they are holding 29 Chinese workers who became caught up in a battle with the Sudanese army.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) said the workers are safe and "in good health". Liu said that Sudan's Charge d'Affaires in Beijing was summoned by the Ministry on Sunday to request for launching search operations for the missing Chinese nationals.

"Currently, the Sudanese government is doing their utmost to locate and rescue the missing Chinese nationals and has enhanced protection for other Chinese nationals in Sudan," he said.

South Kordofan is one of the three areas hit by conflict since South Sudan became independent from Sudan in July.

Abyei and Blue Nile along with South Kordofan lie along the loosely demarcated border between Sudan and South Sudan. The Chinese nationals are reported to have been working on road construction projects in the area.

A rebel spokesman said the Chinese nationals were captured - along with nine Sudanese soldiers following a battle between SPLM-N men and Sudanese military convoy in the area. Another report from the area quoted Sudan's army as saying that the rebels had attacked a complex being used by Chinese construction company and captured 70 civilians.

According to army spokesman an operation to rescue them has been launched.

This is first time that China ran into problems after its aggressive investment push in Africa. Problems started after the recent division of Sudan into North and South.

South has retained the oil resources but is unable to ship them to the outside world as the North headed by long-time Chinese ally Omar al-Bashir demanded high transit fee for using pipelines.

first published:January 29, 2012, 18:38 IST