BEIJING, China - Militants apparently captured 29 Chinese workers after attacking a remote worksite in a volatile region of Sudan, and Sudanese forces were increasing security for Chinese projects and personnel there, China said Sunday.
China has close political and economic relations with Sudan, especially in the energy sector.
The Foreign Ministry in Beijing said the militants attacked Saturday and Sudanese forces launched a rescue mission Sunday in co-ordination with the Chinese embassy in Khartoum.
The Ministry's head of consular affairs met with the Sudanese ambassador in Beijing and "urged him to actively conduct rescue missions under the prerequisite of ensuring the safety of the Chinese personnel," the statement said.
In Khartoum, a Chinese embassy spokesman said the northern branch of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement announced that 29 Chinese workers had been captured in the attack. The spokesman, who asked not be identified, gave no other details and it wasn't clear if the militants had demanded conditions for their return.
Other details weren't given. The official Xinhua News Agency cited the state governor as saying the Sudan People's Liberation Movement attacked a road-building site in South Kordofan and seized the workers.
The Sudan People's Liberation Movement are a guerrilla force that has fought against Sudan's regime. Its members hail from a minority ethnic group now in control of much of South Sudan, which became the world's newest country only six months ago in a breakaway from Sudan.
Sudan has accused South Sudan of arming pro-South Sudan groups in South Kordofan. The government of South Sudan has called such accusations a smoke screen intended to justify a future invasion of the South.
China has sent large numbers of workers to potentially unstable regions such as Sudan and last year was forced to send ships and planes to help with the emergency evacuation of 30,000 of its citizens from the fighting in Libya.
China has consistently used its clout in diplomatic forums such as the United Nations to defend Sudan and its longtime leader Omar al-Bashir. In recent years, it has also sought to build good relations with leaders from the south, where most of Sudan's oil is located.
Chinese companies have also invested heavily in Sudanese oil production, along with companies India and elsewhere.
Associated Press writer Mohamed Saeed contributed to this report from Khartoum.