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Suspected rebel fighters attack army base after Tima gold-mining project closed
Five Chinese nationals kidnapped in DR Congo after attack near mine
Five Chinese nationals are still being held by unknown attackers in eastern DR Congo after they were abducted at the weekend from a mine and after the company had closed it, officials and staff at the mine have said.
The arrests were made on Thursday in the town of Bihanga near Bihanga-1, which contains a gold mine owned by the Pinga Mining Company (PIC).
No group has claimed responsibility, but armed groups, including the former anti-tribal warlord M23 and the Christian militia Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), operate in the region around Bihanga.
Chinese nationals have been kidnapped in eastern Congo in the past, though this was believed to be the first case reported this year.
Cases were unusual before 2009 when the rebels rose up in the east.
The raiders arrived at the goldmine between 10.30am and 11.45am on Sunday in three vehicles and abducted the five workers.
“We suspect the armed groups are behind the abduction,” said Jean-Paul Chibutu, the mayor of Bihanga.
“We are in the process of locating them and, if they are able to be located, we will hand them over to the authorities,” he added.
Last month the Chinese mining company, which operates in northern Bihanga, closed the mine and sent about 10 of its employees home.
A company spokesman in Beijing said that it “recognises the security situation in that country [in the] Great Lakes” is very difficult.
“Pinga Mining takes all security precautions to safeguard employees and their family members,” said the spokesman.
On Friday the Chinese foreign ministry told state news agency Xinhua that the kidnappings were reported “without any factual evidence or accurate information about the circumstances”.
“The Chinese side is maintaining communication with the competent authorities of the concerned country,” the spokesman said.
The United Nations mission in DR Congo (Monusco) told the Associated Press it was monitoring the kidnappings, but could not say whether the Chinese had been singled out.
“As far as Monusco is concerned, we do not have enough information to ascertain that. But at this stage, no more information has been provided to us,” an official said on condition of anonymity because the matter was sensitive.
Chinese and other foreign businesses depend on a peaceful east for their supplies and raw materials. China is the top buyer of natural resources from Africa, which contains vast oil, minerals and minerals.