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. Fourth Chinese Hostage Found Dead In Sudan

by Staff Writers
Khartoum (AFP) Oct 29, 2008
The body of a fourth Chinese hostage was found in Sudan on Wednesday as two local staff for a Yemeni company were shot dead, exacerbating fears of growing insecurity for the country's oil industry.

The recovery of the Chinese oil worker, one of a group of nine snatched in central Sudan 11 days ago, confirms Beijing's official death toll of four, although the circumstances of their killings remain murky.

"We found information from a certain department on the Sudanese side and Chinese personnel found the dead body and identified it is the Chinese. Now, we have four dead men," Chinese ambassador Li Chengwen told AFP.

The body was discovered in the same part of South Kordofan where three dead Chinese hostages were retrieved by the Sudanese government and flown back to Khartoum on Tuesday.

Two Chinese remain missing while three injured colleagues have returned to Khartoum.

Three engineers and six other workers from the China National Petroleum Corp were snatched in an oil-rich area of South Kordofan, on the fault line between former warring north and south Sudan, on October 18.

Beijing spoke of a rescue attempt and diplomats say they "understood" that the hostages were caught in crossfire, but Sudan denies any confrontation, saying the kidnappers spotted a helicopter, panicked and started shooting.

The government blamed Darfur rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) for the abductions, but local officials and diplomats pointed the finger at disaffected members of the Messeria tribe.

The Messeria were blamed for kidnapping four Indian oil workers and their Sudanese driver in Heglig in South Kordofan last May. Two of the Indians escaped alive, one was released and the other is missing, presumed dead.

On Wednesday, unknown gunmen shot dead two Sudanese working for HTC Yemen in Unity State, in semi-autonomous southern Sudan.

"They were on the road going to the oil station where they worked in Unity State," the Sudan-based manager for HTC Yemen, Abdelkarim al-Harabi, told AFP.

A Sudanese official said the gunmen had also kidnapped a Yemeni staff member in Unity State, part of the semi-autonomous southern Sudan, but Harabi could not confirm the report.

"We're now verifying our staff from Yemen to see if we have lost anyone. I'm at the airport now, waiting to receive the bodies," Harabi added.

On Tuesday, Khartoum vowed to spare no efforts to protect staff in oil fields and investments across the country.

Some analysts warn that the killings could have an adverse effect on oil exploration in Sudan, with some indications already that investment is lagging because of security concerns over relations with local communities.

earlier related report
China, Sudan hunt for missing oil workers
Chinese and Sudanese officals said Wednesday they were scouring the bush for three Chinese oil workers missing in a hostage ordeal that has already seen three of their co-workers killed.

"We are working now to find three missing people. There are unconfirmed reports that one of the other three has been killed but there is nothing to prove that," Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadiq told AFP.

He said it was "very difficult to tell" whether the three oil workers are being held hostage or whether they had broken free and were roaming the forest. The army "had stepped in" to assist with the search operation, he said.

"We are expecting to get something new this evening or this afternoon," said the spokesman.

Three engineers and six other workers from the China National Petroleum Corp were snatched in an oil-rich area of South Kordofan, on the fault line between former warring north and south Sudan, on October 18.

Giant elephant grass, which grows around 12 feet (3.5 metres) high across the wild terrain, considerably hampers search and rescue operations.

"We are working together with the Sudanese parties to try and find them. Up to now we have no information," Chinese Ambassador Li Chengwen told AFP.

The bodies of three Chinese oil workers and three of their wounded colleagues were flown to Khartoum on Tuesday. China said four hostages were killed.

Diplomatic sources said the body of an Indian oil worker, who was not abducted or connected to the Chinese, was recovered from the same area.

Sudan denies any attempt to rescue the Chinese, insisting local leaders were "very close" to a deal when the hostages were killed on Monday after the kidnappers spotted a helicopter and panicked.

Beijing spoke of a rescue attempt and diplomats say they "understood" that the hostages were caught in cross fire.

Sudan blamed a Darfur rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, for the abductions, but local officials and diplomats point the finger at disaffected members of the Messeria tribe.

The Messeria were blamed for kidnapping four Indian oil workers and their Sudanese driver in Heglig last May. Two of the Indians escaped alive, one was released and one is missing, presumed dead.

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Analysis: Brazil may delay oil drilling
Miami (UPI) Oct 29, 2008
Production at Brazil's newly discovered offshore oil fields may be delayed by the lack of legislation to oversee the finds, according to energy officials.

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