Tuesday, April 24, 2007

9 Chinese workers killed in Ethiopia oilfield site

Nine Chinese workers were killed on Tuesday in an attack by armed men on an oil field in eastern Ethiopia, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Tuesday in Beijing, strongly condemning the atrocity of armed attacks.

Liu Jianchao, the spokesman, said seven more Chinese workers were abducted in the attack, and one was slightly injured.

Liu said China strongly condemns such an atrocity of armed attacks, and expresses condolence to the victims in the attack, according to a statement posted on the ministry's website (www.fmprc.gov.cn).

He said the Chinese side has requested the Ethiopian side to make every effort to ensure the safe release of the kidnapped Chinese workers and to take effective measures to guarantee the safety of the staffs with Chinese organizations in Ethiopia. He said the Ethiopia has sent army forces to the place where the attack happened.

More 200 unidentified gunmen launched an attack on the oil field in Somali state where China's Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau was exploring for oil.

According to news agencies, 65 Ethiopian employees were also killed in the attack in eastern Ethiopia, a spokesman for Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said.

The attackers engaged more than 100 soldiers protecting the field in a fierce 50 minute gun battle.

The oil field is located in Abole, a small town about 120 kilometres (75 miles) away from the Somali state capital of Jijiga, it said.

No one claimed responsibility for Tuesday's raid, but an Ethiopian rebel group warned last year that any investment in the Ogden area that also benefited the Ethiopian government "would not be tolerated."

The Ogaden National Liberation Front is fighting a low-level insurgency with the aim of creating an independent state for ethnic Somalis. Somalia lost control of the region in a war in 1977.

In Nigeria, armed militants seeking a greater share of that country's oil wealth kidnapped nine Chinese oil workers in January, who were later freed. And two more Chinese workers were kidnapped in March, and their fate is still unknown.

Also in March in Nigeria, five Chinese telecommunications workers were abducted for two weeks.