Abducted Indians in Sudan fine, negotiations on (Lead)

May 15th, 2008 - 10:49 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 15 (IANS) India Thursday said negotiations were on to secure release of four Indians kidnapped in the oil-rich south Sudan and assured they are “in good health and high spirits.” Four Indian nationals working as technical personnel for Petro Energy Contracting Services, a Sudan-registered private company that provides low-tech oil related services to the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company, were abducted Wednesday evening, India’s ambassador to Sudan Deepak Vohra told IANS from Khartoum.

They were kidnapped in the oil rich Heglig area located in Unity and South Kordofan States, he said.

“The kidnappers are known and we also know where the four Indian nationals are being held,” the envoy said.

“Negotiations for their release are on. They are reportedly in good health and high spirits. The Sudanese authorities are being helpful,” he added.

“We expect positive results very soon,” he said.

The Indian envoy said there have been abductions in this area before, but none involving Indians.

“Yes, some Indians have been kidnapped. We are trying to find out more details,” a Sudanese embassy official told IANS in New Delhi.

“The Indian mission is in touch with the Sudanese government. The Sudanese government has assured us about their help in ensuring the release of abducted Indians,” sources in the external affairs ministry here said.

“No ransom demand has been made,” the sources added.

The Indian mission in Sudan is sparing no efforts to secure the release of the Indians, the sources said.

“They were kidnapped in the course of a fight between rival tribes who were claiming a share of oil-wealth,” the Sudanese official said in New Delhi.

ONGC Videsh, the overseas arm of India’s oil major, has invested over $1 billion in the Greater Nile Petroleum Operation Company (GNPOC), making it the largest Indian investment in Africa.

China’s CNPC and Malaysian Petronas have also substantial stakes in GNPOC.

It is not clear whether the kidnapping of workers, who were among a larger number abducted, has anything to do with the ethnic conflict in Darfur or whether it was the handiwork of locals who are unhappy at being deprived by the Sudan government of a share in the oil wealth.

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