Sudan: Army frees some abducted Chinese workers

January 30, 2012 - 8:35 AM
Sudan China

FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010 file photo, Chinese technicians man drilling equipment on an oil rig in Paloich, South Sudan. Militants apparently captured 29 Chinese workers after attacking a remote work site in the volatile South Kordofan region of neighboring Sudan, and Sudanese forces were increasing security for Chinese projects and personnel there, China said Sunday. (AP Photo/Pete Muller, File)

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — The Sudanese army has freed 14 Chinese road construction workers, part of a group reportedly abducted by militants in a remote region in the country's south, officials said Monday.

The Chinese workers were "liberated" by Sudanese troops and evacuated to the town of El Obeid, Omdurman Radio quoted South Kordofan province's governor Ahmed Haroun on Monday as saying. He said that they were in good health.

The report, which was also carried on the state-run SUNA news agency, did not say when the rescue occurred. Haroun said the army and security forces are trying to free the remaining abducted workers.

It did not say how many workers remained captive, but the Chinese embassy in Khartoum has said that a total of 29 had been taken in the Saturday attack near Abbasiya town in South Kordofan province, some 390 miles (630 kilometers) south of Khartoum.

Sudanese officials have blamed the attack on the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), a branch of a guerrilla movement which has fought various regimes in Khartoum for decades.

Many of the rebels 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. The SPLM northern branch still operates in Sudan.

Sudan has accused South Sudan of arming pro-South Sudan groups in South Kordofan. The government of South Sudan has called such accusations 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 and last year 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 consistently used its clout in diplomatic forums such as the United Nations to defend Sudan and its longtime leader Omar al-Bashir. In recent years, it has also sought to build good relations with leaders from the south, where most of Sudan's oil is located.

Chinese companies have also invested heavily in Sudanese oil production.