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Kidnapped Chinese workers released in Sudan

From Peter Shadbolt, CNN
updated 1:34 PM EST, Tue February 7, 2012
The Sudanese military said rebels in the border region with neighboring South Sudan are responsible for the kidnapping.
The Sudanese military said rebels in the border region with neighboring South Sudan are responsible for the kidnapping.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chinese hostages are freed in Sudan; they're now on the way to Kenya
  • The body of one worker killed in the rebel raid on their camp is returned to Chinese officials
  • The 29 Chinese workers were abducted from a construction site January 28

(CNN) -- More than two dozen Chinese construction workers abducted in Sudan have been released, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday.

The 29 workers flew out of Sudan aboard a Red Cross plane bound for Nairobi, Kenya, a statement from the ICRC said.

Rebels kidnapped the workers January 28 from a camp run by China's Power Construction Corp. in volatile South Kordofan. Eighteen other workers in the camp escaped the raid, which the Sudanese military blamed on the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North -- a rebel force in the border region with neighboring South Sudan.

One worker died in the raid, according to Xinhua, China's official news agency. Sudanese authorities handed over the worker's body Tuesday, Xinhua said.

The workers were released after what Xinhua described as "a stream of intensive rescue efforts carried out by the Chinese government in collaboration with the Sudanese government and other parties."

The Al-Adhdath daily newspaper in Khartoum earlier said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had mediated for the release.

South Sudan became the world's newest nation last year after decades of conflict with the north.

Nevertheless, violence in South Kordofan and the nearby Blue Nile states has forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. While the region is in Sudanese territory, it 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 with the previous year.

The close bilateral cooperation is mainly driven by oil exports from Sudan, which is among the top oil suppliers for China.

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