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Sudanese rebels kidnap Chinese construction workers

January 29, 2012 |  9:33 am

REPORTING FROM BEIJING -- Sudanese rebels have kidnapped about 30 Chinese construction workers who were building a road in a remote stretch of the country, Chinese and Sudanese sources said Sunday.

The workers’ camp in South Kordofan was attacked late Saturday by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, a guerrilla force said to be allied with Southern Sudan, the world’s newest country. A rebel spokesman was quoted saying 29 Chinese workers were being held “for their own safety” because of fighting in the area.  

In Beijing, the foreign ministry confirmed Sunday that its nationals have “gone missing.”

"The Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Chinese Embassy to Sudan have initiated an emergency response to the incident," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin was quoted as telling the Xinhua news agency.

The Sudan Times quoted the governor of South Kordofan, Ahmed Haroun, praising the Chinese contribution to building Sudan’s infrastructure.

"This attack targets the security and stability of these companies and tends to halt the big development projects in the state .… The Chinese company is operating on a vital sector of the circular road which has been a dream for the people of the state, particularly at the eastern part, for tens of years," he said.

China has extensive investments in oil, agriculture, minerals and infrastructure and is Sudan’s largest trading partner, buying about 70% of its oil and selling it military equipment. About 15,000 Chinese work in Sudan. Beijing hosted Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir last year, although he is under indictment on charges of genocide over abuses in the Darfur region.

South Kordofan lies just north of the border between Sudan and South Sudan, near Darfur, and has been the scene of heavy fighting since the summer.

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-- Barbara Demick

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