BEIJING, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- The Chinese foreign minister called on the government of Sudan to help ensure the safe return of four nationals kidnapped from the troubled Darfur region.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Monday that the embassy in Khartoum had called on the Sudanese government to get to work in securing the release of missing Chinese workers. Three Chinese nationals were kidnapped and one engineer is reported officially as missing, the official Xinhua news agency reports.
Sudan's official news agency, SUNA, reports that government rescue operations were carried out last weekend. No group has claimed responsibility for the abductions, though the independent Sudan Tribune suggested the rebel Darfur Justice and Equality movement may have been behind the kidnappings.
Authorities in the region said the Chinese company, China Railway 18 Bureau Group Co., Ltd., had a history of lax security in the area. Rebels in the border state of South Kordofan, near Darfur, detained 29 Chinese construction workers briefly last year.
Last week, Aichatou Mindaoudou, acting special envoy to the African Union-U.N. Hybrid Operation in Darfur, said she was concerned about fighting between rival groups in Darfur. Nearly 1,000 families have been displaced as a result of recent fighting.