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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Nine Chinese and 65 Ethiopians killed on Ethiopian oil field

Nine Chinese and 65 Ethiopian employees were killed on Tuesday in an attack by armed men on an oil field in eastern Ethiopia, a spokesman for Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told AFP.

About 200 unidentified gunmen launched an attack on the oil field in Somali state where China's Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau was exploring for oil, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The attackers engaged more than 100 soldiers protecting the field in a fierce 50 minute gun battle, the report said, citing Xu Shuang, the manager of Zhongyuan petroleum, a subsidiary of China's oil giant Sinopec.

The attack was also confirmed by China's embassy in Ethiopia, Xinhua said.

The oil field is located in Abole, a small town about 120 kilometres (75 miles) away from the Somali state capital of Jijiga, it said.

China has stepped up investment and exploration in African oil fields in recent years as its appetite for energy has boomed along with its growing economy.

Chinese workers have also been plagued by a spate of killings and kidnappings in Nigeria in recent months where Beijing is also aggressively seeking to develop the nation's oil reserves.

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