Egyptians Hold 25 Chinese Citizens, Call for Prisoner Release

Egyptian “protesters” are holding 25 Chinese citizens working in a cement factory belonging to the armed forces in central Sinai in a bid to pressure local authorities to release a number of prisoners, the state-run Nile News reported on its website.

The hostages won’t be released until demands are met that include freeing five prisoners convicted in relation to bombings in Sharm el Sheikh and Taba, as well as Egypt halting gas exports to Israel, Nile News said, citing an unidentified “protester.” The gas-export pipeline in the Sinai has been repeatedly attacked since the uprising last year that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak.

The 24 workers and a translator were abducted from a bus traveling to the factory in Arish at about 11:40 a.m. local time yesterday, Xinhua News Agency reported, citing Ma Jianchun, the commercial affairs counselor at China’s embassy in Cairo, who said he was on his way to Arish.

Egyptian security forces on the scene are in talks with local tribal leaders, China’s official news service said. Chinese Ambassador Song Aiguo spoke to Egyptian interior and defense ministry officials about the incident, Xinhua reported.

In a separate incident in neighboring Sudan, 29 Chinese workers are being held by Sudanese rebels following an attack on their camp in the oil-rich state of Southern Kordofan. Fighting in the area has intensified since South Sudan seceded in July from its northern neighbor.

Two calls to the Chinese Foreign Ministry went unanswered after regular office hours yesterday evening.