Nine Chinese nationals were among the 74 workers killed yesterday in an
attack on a Chinese-run oil field in eastern Ethiopia's Somali state, a company
"Nine Chinese were killed, seven Chinese workers were kidnapped, and 65
locals working for the company were also killed," said Xu Shuang, general
manager of the Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau under the China Petroleum
& Chemical Corp.
An Ethiopian rebel group claimed credit for the attack.
The Ogaden National Liberation Front said in a statement sent to The
Associated Press that it had launched "military operations against units of the
Ethiopian armed forces guarding an oil exploration site."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao strongly condemned the
The Chinese Embassy in Ethiopia said it had formed an emergency team,
maintaining close contact with the Ethiopian government and military, according
to Chinese interim Charge d'Affaires Zhang Yuebang.
About 200 gunmen launched the assault about 6am yesterday at the company's
facilities, which are located in Abole, a small town about 120 kilometers from
the Somali state capital, Jijiga, Xu said.
Somali state, also known as the Ogaden region, borders Somalia.
The gunmen briefly took control of the field, which employed 37 Chinese
workers and more than 120 Ethiopian workers, after an exchange of gunfire with
more than 100 soldiers who were protecting the facility, Xu said. The shootout
lasted about 50 minutes.
An Ethiopian press official told Xinhua that Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles
Zenawi has instructed the Ministry of National Defense to send immediate
reinforcements to the area.
The Ogaden National Liberation Front issued a warning last year that any
investment in the Ogaden area that also benefited the Ethiopian government
"would not be tolerated."
The rebels have been waging 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.
Chinese oil workers have also been targeted in Nigeria by armed militants
seeking a greater share of that country's oil wealth. Hostages are normally
released unharmed after a ransom is paid.
In March, two Chinese workers were kidnapped in Nigeria. In January, nine
Chinese oil workers were taken when gunmen stormed the government-owned Chinese
National Petroleum Co office in Nigeria's state of Bayelsa.
In another incident in southern Nigeria's Rivers state the same month, five
Chinese telecommunication workers were kidnapped and safely returned within two