Sudan says abducted Chinese killed in cold blood
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — The kidnappers of nine Chinese oil workers in Sudan killed as many as five of their hostages on Tuesday after being spooked by a surveillance plane, a Sudanese government official said, contradicting Chinese claims of a botched rescue.
There were also conflicting reports about the number of deaths.
Mohammed Doureik, commissioner of Abyei in the province of south Kordofan where the Oct. 18 kidnapping took place, said five hostages were killed, two escaped and a third was handed over Tuesday to local tribal chiefs, leaving the ninth Chinese oil worker unaccounted for.
"There were no clashes. There was a slight panic when they saw the plane and they killed them," said Doureik, adding the aircraft had been monitoring the hostages.
China's foreign ministry initially reported five of the nine hostages were killed. but later said only four had died, citing new information supplied by the Sudanese government.
An Associated Press reporter at the Khartoum airport only saw three coffins leave the plane bringing back the bodies.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China was involved in the rescue attempt and had a working group in Sudan. She declined to say if the Chinese government had been in contact with the rebels or provide further details.
The deaths are one of the most violent acts Chinese nationals have faced in recent years as China's businesses expand worldwide in search of energy, raw materials and new markets.
Sudan's Defense Minister Abdel Rahim Hussein called the killings a "terrorist act," and Foreign Ministry officials said there will be new measures to protect foreign interests in Sudan.
China, which buys nearly two-thirds of Sudan's oil, has angered anti-government forces in Darfur who argue it provides crucial revenue to the government, involved in a civil war where 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced.
Jiang said China would not cut its business ties with Sudan, saying they were beneficial to both countries.
"We have actually played a constructive and contributing role in Sudan's economic and social development. Our companies have brought a lot of benefit to the local people and we will continue to keep our friendly cooperation with Sudan," she said.
Sudan's government has blamed Darfur rebels for kidnapping, but on Tuesday a spokesman for the rebels denied involvement.
"Even though China has become a partner in supporting the government military offensive in Darfur, we remain committed to international laws ... and we condemn such an attack," said Ahmed Hussein, spokesman for Justice and Equality Movement, which the government specifically accused of the kidnapping.
A tribal leader from the area, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the kidnappers were Arab gunmen — who were part of a government militia and who now feel neglected by Khartoum.
Associated Press Writers Anita Chang and Henry Sanderson contributed to this report from Beijing.