China condemns Sudan killings

Beijing calls workers' murders "inhumane", but incident unlikely to damage ties wth Khartoum.

    Al-Sadiq said Sudan would spare no effort in protecting oil workers in Sudan [AFP]
     

    But the Darfur group accused by Sudan of abducting and killing Chinese oil workers has denied any responsibility.

    Sudan's government said abductors who identified themselves as the Justice and Equality Movement kidnapped nine workers from the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).
     
    "Does JEM have or did JEM do it? The answer is no," Tahir el-Faki, the London-based chairman of the JEM's  legislative assembly, said.

    The men had been seized near the disputed oil region of Abyei

    "We don't kidnap. We don't take hostages. JEM has nothing to do with it."

    "We have forces in the region, we have the support of the people  there. Some of the Messeria people are affiliated to us. Some of  them may take actions but not in the name of JEM," Faki said.

    Gibril Ibrahim Mohamed, an adviser to JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim, also denied any responsibility.

    "I don't know if someone is acting in our name, but what I'm  sure about is that JEM would not do such a thing," he said.

    The employees were taken hostage on October 18 in Korodofan outside Darfur, a region of western Sudan that has been the scene of a nearly six-year war.

    Two escaped with injuries and two other workers remained in captivity, according to the Sudanese government.

    China's ambassador to Khartoum and senior Chinese officials flew to Kordofan to recover the bodies of the five oil workers.

    Oil ally

    China is the main buyer of Sudan's oil, a key economic investor and perhaps Khartoum's most powerful foreign ally.

    This has drawn criticism in the West that China has not done enough to help bring an end to the conflict in Darfur and on occasions shielded the Khartoum government from international pressure.

    Jiang said China would maintain strong ties with Sudan's government, despite the killings.

    "In the future we will continue to value and implement a friendly policy towards Sudan," she said.

    "[But] meanwhile we hope that Sudan will provide good conditions for the people to people relations between the two countries."

    Kidnappings

    The government in Khartoum has labelled JEM a "terrorist" organisation and the group attacked the Sudanese capital last May.

    In the past, Darfur fighters have kidnapped foreign oil workers from Sudanese oilfields, often targeting Chinese companies because of their strong ties with Khartoum, although all of those abducted eventually emerged unscathed.

    In October 2007, JEM attacked an oilfield run by the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, a consortium involving China's CNPC. JEM said the oilfield was a legitimate military target.

    The Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper last week identified the alleged leader of the kidnappers as Abu Humaid Ahmad Dannay, who  reportedly said he commands JEM in Kordofan and belongs to the Arab  Messeria tribe.

    The Messeria were blamed for kidnapping four Indian oil workers and their Sudanese driver in the same area in May. All five escaped or were released.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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