Last Updated: Tue Feb 07, 2012 14:47 pm (KSA) 11:47 am (GMT)

Chinese workers freed in Sudan, says Foreign Ministry

34 freed Chinese workers arrived safe in Khartoum after their camp was attacked by rebels. (File photo)
34 freed Chinese workers arrived safe in Khartoum after their camp was attacked by rebels. (File photo)

A group of Chinese workers “kidnapped” by rebels in southern Sudan 11 days ago have been freed and flown to Kenya, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

“The Sudanese authorities allowed a Red Cross plane to take them from Kauda to Nairobi ... this Tuesday morning where they were given to the Chinese embassy there,” the statement said.

The statement did not give the number of Chinese freed.

The Kauda area in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan state has been the scene of fighting since June between government troops and rebels formerly aligned with the rulers of now independent South Sudan.

Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) spokesman Arnu Ngutulu Lodi told AFP he would comment later Tuesday, but the release comes a day after he said he expected the 29 Chinese workers to be released “very soon.”

Lodi said on Monday the rebels were in communication with the Chinese government, although not through a six-member mission sent by Beijing to Khartoum to help secure a release.

The captives, who were involved in a road-building project in South Kordofan, had been held since January 28 when the SPLM-N destroyed a Sudanese military convoy between Rashad town and al-Abbasiya and took over the area, the rebels said.

SPLM-N maintained that all 29 Chinese were safe during their captivity.

According to the official Chinese Xinhua news agency, the workers were taken after a rebel attack on their camp.

It reported on Monday that Beijing had been informed by Sudanese authorities that the body of one Chinese, who went missing in the attack, had been found. That person was apparently not among the 29 captured.

Official Sudanese media issued similar reports citing the South Kordofan state government.

Chinese embassy officials in Khartoum could not be reached on Tuesday.

Last week, SPLM-N chairman Malik Agar discussed the matter with a Chinese diplomat and asked China to use its influence with Khartoum to help badly needed aid reach the country’s war zone, Lodi said.

Agar held the talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa with Beijing’s ambassador there.

China is Sudan’s major trading partner, the largest buyer of Sudanese oil and a key military supplier to the regime in Khartoum.

Sudan has severely restricted the work of foreign relief agencies in South Kordofan and nearby Blue Nile state, where a similar war began in September.

About 30,000 people fled when the rebels took control of villages in the al-Abbasiya area on Jan. 28, the United Nations said.

The U.N. has backed statements by the United States that there could be a famine unless urgent aid is allowed to enter South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

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