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Cablegate: Chinese Embassy Official Discusses Hostage Negotiations

VZCZCXRO9755
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHGI RUEHKUK RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1653/01 3180930
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 130930Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2298
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001653

DEPT FOR AF A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON, AF/SPG, AF/E
NSC FOR PITTMAN AND HUDSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: CHINESE EMBASSY OFFICIAL DISCUSSES HOSTAGE NEGOTIATIONS

REF A) KHARTOUM 1550
B) KHARTOUM 1625

1. (SBU) Summary: The Chinese Embassy official who oversaw
negotiations for the release of the kidnapped oil workers in South
Kordofan told poloff that he had daily contact with the kidnappers
and was prepared to pay a ransom, until negotiations were abruptly
curtailed by the deaths of five of the nine hostages at the hands of
a single deranged member of the group. He also stated that the
Government of China has urged the GOS to provide greater security
for oil installations and workers, but also asked that any military
presence in the disputed areas be comprised of Joint Integrated
Units (JIUs). End Summary.

2. (SBU) On November 12 poloff met with Yu Chunhua, Political
Director at the Chinese Embassy in Khartoum. Following the
kidnapping of nine Chinese oil workers in South Kordofan state (Ref
A), Yu was dispatched to the site of the abduction to oversee
negotiations for their release. He was accompanied by Khartoum-based
Misseriya tribal leaders, who at the suggestion of the GOS offered
their assistance in liaising with the kidnappers to secure release
of the hostages. "The kidnappers were members of their tribe," said
Yu, adding that at some of them were well known to the tribal
leaders.

3. (SBU) Working out of a container in the oil workers' camp, Yu
stated that he and the tribal leaders had "daily" contact with the
kidnappers on Thuraya satellite phones, and that the tribal leaders
even succeeded in meeting some of them face-to-face on October 27,
prior to the killing spree later that day. Yu said the kidnappers
had also allowed him to speak directly with the hostages via
Thuraya. The hostages were in extremely poor health, he said, after
being forced to walk miles on end without food or water for several
days. They survived only by drinking from stagnant pools of water,
and several became violently ill and unable to walk as a result. The
kidnappers subsequently brought in a camel to transport the
incapacitated hostages, he said.

4. (SBU) According to Yu, the kidnappers' demands were money, jobs
and development for the neglected region. "We knew we would have to
pay something, and we were prepared to do so," said Yu, adding that
the talks "never reached the stage" of negotiating a ransom amount.
While he admitted to poloff that paying a ransom would only
encourage more such kidnappings, he stated that "we thought it
through, and we put our people's lives first." He expressed
frustration at the kidnappers' demands for jobs and development
because "most of our workforce there is comprised of local labor,"
with only the skilled and managerial posts occupied by Chinese, he
said. He also claimed that China has built over 100 schools in the
region, many of which remain empty. "But some people are never
satisfied," he said, adding that "Rome wasn't built in a day."

5. (SBU) Any progress made in negotiations was promptly curtailed on
November 27, when a government helicopter spotted the camel carrying
the hostages, cluing them in to the kidnappers' location. Upon
seeing the helicopter, the kidnappers panicked and lined up the
hostages to vacate the area, but one kidnapper began shooting the
hostages from behind as they lined up. Five of the nine hostages
fell victims to the gunfire, with three dying immediately and two
shortly thereafter. According to Yu, the gunman is a "deranged"
individual well known to the GOS, and has a long criminal history
that is said to include the murder of three women. The hijackers
fled after the shooting but returned minutes after to retrieve the
four surviving hostages, though one had already escaped. The other
three were freed following a firefight between the kidnappers and
government forces, he said. The four surviving hostages have now
returned to China.

6. (SBU) As a result of the incident, Yu stated that the Chinese
have asked the GOS to strengthen security for oil installations and
workers, and welcomed the announcement by the Ministry of Interior
that additional security forces would be deployed in the area (Ref
B). But he added that the Chinese asked the GOS to ensure that only
Joint Integrated Units (JIUs) made up of both SAF and SPLA troops
be used in the disputed areas between the North and South. (Note:
The kidnapping occurred near Difra, which is actually within the
boundaries of the Abyei Interim Borders where only Abyei JIU should
be present. End Note).

7. (SBU) Comment: China's willingness to pay a ransom in this
instance could serve as an incentive for future kidnappings in oil
producing regions where dissatisfaction at the lack of wealth
sharing is high. It will be very difficult for the GoS to protect
all of the Chinese personnel at oil installations. But more worrying

KHARTOUM 00001653 002 OF 002


is the potential deployment of Central Reserve Police (CRP) near or
within the boundary of the Abyei Interim Border. This could set the
stage for another violent confrontation as these well-armed,
undisciplined Arab militiamen, re-hatted as CRP, come into contact
with Abyei's Dinka population, which is backed up by the SPLA.

FERNANDEZ

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