Seized Chinese workers released in Sinai

Twenty-five employees of Egyptian cement factory released, days after 17 other workers escape capture in Sudan.

    In Sudan, 17 Chinese workers escaped the rebels, but another 29 were still being held, Xinhua reported [Reuters]

    Twenty-five Chinese workers abducted in Egypt have been freed, a day after they were taken hostage by Bedouin tribesman in the Sinai region, Chinese media reported.

    A Chinese embassy official said on Wednesday that the group had been released unharmed, though he did not elaborate on how the workers were released.

    "I can confirm that all 25 people have been released. Right now they are being taken care of by the Egyptian government and are staying in army accommodation," the assistant to the Chinese ambassador to Egypt told the AFP news agency.

    "They are all well, with no injuries. There was no need to send them to hospital," the Cairo-based assistant, who would not give his name, said over the phone.

    Bedouin tribesmen kidnapped the Chinese cement factory workers and a translator in Egypt's central Sinai region on Tuesday and held them for 15 hours, according to Xinhua, China's official news agency. 

    "We had expected the problem to be solved in one or two days, but it was settled so quickly," one 25-year-old worker surnamed Pan told Xinhua, adding the embassy had managed to keep in touch with them through text messages.

    Song Aiguo, China's ambassador to Egypt, had contacted Egyptian officials from the interior and defence ministries on
    Tuesday, urging them to secure the release of the workers, Xinhua said.

    The kidnappers were demanding that authorities free fellow tribesmen from prison, according to tribal sources.

    The protesters who seized them were demanding the release of five Bedouins held in connection with an attack on the tourist resort of Taba in 2004.

    They said Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took power last year when a popular uprising toppled former president Hosni Mubarak, had repeatedly promised to release the Bedouins.

    Warning to workers

    The incident comes days after 29 Chinese nationals in Sudan were captured by rebels who attacked their camp in the volatile South Kordofan state, where they were involved in a road-building project.

    They have still not been released, though Xinhua reported that 17 other workers managed to escape capture.

    China's foreign ministry on Wednesday warned Chinese companies and personnel working abroad to be on their guard.

    We "remind Chinese personnel and firms abroad to improve their risk awareness and strengthen security", the ministry said.

    Collateral victims

    The 29 workers in Sudan were captured on Saturday. They have been described as hostages by the Sudanese military but rebels say they were collateral victims of fighting with government troops.

    China dispatched a team to the African nation earlier this week to help secure their release, and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) holding the workers said it was ready to talk with the delegation.

    Beijing has already lodged a formal protest with Sudan over the situation, and has called for the release of the workers.

    The SPLM-N was once allied to the former rebels who now rule South Sudan, which gained independence from Khartoum in July last year after decades of civil war.

    The oil-rich South Kordofan state remains under Khartoum's administration, but the SPLM-N rebels have been fighting against the Sudanese army since June, sparking growing international concern over refugees.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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