29 abducted in Sudan 'still being held'

2012-01-31 10:07

Beijing - None of the 29 Chinese workers abducted after an attack in a volatile region of Sudan have been freed, Chinese state media said on Tuesday, dismissing reports that some of the workers had been released.

The workers were abducted on Saturday by militants in a remote region in the country's south. Sudanese state media reported on Monday that 14 of them had been freed, but the official Xinhua News Agency and China Daily newspaper said all 29 were still being held.

China has close political and economic relations with Sudan, especially in the energy sector.

The Chinese ambassador to Sudan, Luo Xiaoguang, told China Central Television in an interview in Khartoum that anti-government rebels attacked the road project the Chinese were working on.

"There are still Chinese workers missing. Some others are still being held by the anti-government armed forces," Luo said.

Xinhua said 47 Chinese workers were caught in the attack in the South Kordofan region of Sudan. It said 29 were captured and the other 18 fled, and that one of those who fled remains missing.

The Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that a working group had been sent to Sudan to assist in the rescue work.

"China calls upon relevant parties to maintain calm and exercise restraint, to ensure the safety of Chinese personnel, and from a humanitarian point of view, to the release of Chinese personnel as soon as possible," the statement said.

A statement from the workers' company, Sinohydro Corp, said that it and the Chinese Embassy would "spare no effort in ensuring the personal safety of those abducted and rescuing them".

Future invasion

On Monday, Sudan's state-run SUNA news agency quoted South Kordofan provincial governor Ahmed Haroun as saying that 14 workers had been released.

SUNA said the attack took place near Abbasiya town 630km south of Khartoum.

Sudanese officials have blamed the attack on the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North, a branch of a guerrilla movement that has fought various regimes in Khartoum for decades. Its members hail from a minority ethnic group now in control of much of South Sudan, which became the world's newest country only six months ago in a breakaway from Sudan.

Sudan has accused South Sudan of arming pro-South Sudan groups in South Kordofan. The government of South Sudan says the accusations are a smoke screen intended to justify a future invasion of the South.

China has sent large numbers of workers to potentially unstable regions such as Sudan. Last year it was forced to send ships and planes to help with the emergency evacuation of 30,000 of its citizens from the fighting in Libya.

China has used its diplomatic clout to defend Sudan and its longtime leader, Omar al-Bashir. Recently, it has also sought to build good relations with leaders from the south.

South Sudan and Sudan are in bitter dispute over oil, which is produced primarily in South Sudan but runs through Sudanese pipelines for export.