Report: Sudanese army frees at least 14 kidnapped Chinese workers
updated 10:17 AM EST, Mon January 30, 2012
The visit to Beijing by President Omar al-Bashir (L) last year was a sign of the growing ties between Sudan and China.
- The workers are in good condition, the news report says
- It did not mention the fate of the other 56 workers who were also kidnapped
- The attack took place at a construction site in a remote area
(CNN) -- The Sudanese army has freed at least 14 Chinese nationals who were kidnapped in the volatile South Kordofan state, the official Sudan News Agency said Monday.
The news agency quoted Ahmed Haroun, the state governor, as saying the workers were taken to neighboring North Kordofan and were in good condition.
The report did not mention the fate of the other 56 construction workers who militants had also captured when they attacked a construction site in a remote area Saturday.
At the time, Alsawarmi Khalid, spokesman for the Sudanese armed forces, blamed the attacks on the Sudan People's Liberation Movement -North, a rebel force in the border region with neighboring South Sudan. Khalid said a total of 70 workers were kidnapped in the incident -- a mix of local and foreign workers.
China's Xinhua news agency confirmed the release, but reported that 17 -- and not 14 -- Chinese workers were evacuated to "safe places" by Sudanese forces. That leaves 12 Chinese workers unaccounted for, the Chinese embassy in Sudan told Xinhua.
UN: Political solution needed in Sudan
It was unclear why the two official accounts varied in the number of Chinese nationals freed.
South Sudan became the world's newest nation last year after decades of conflict with the north.
International concern has grown over the violence in South Kordofan and nearby Blue Nile states, which has forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.
The region is a Sudan territory, but straddles Sudan and South Sudan's ethnic and political lines.
China is Sudan's largest trading partner, while Sudan is China's third-largest trading partner in Africa. According to the Chinese foreign ministry, trade between the two countries reached $8.63 billion in 2010, an increase of 35.1% compared to the previous year.
The close bilateral cooperation is mainly driven by oil exports from Sudan, which is among the top oil suppliers for China.
CNN's Paul Armstrong contributed to this report.
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