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News: Unknown number of Chinese nationals abducted by gunmen in North Shoa Zone, Oromia region

Yesterday, members of an armed group abducted Chinese nationals who were employed by East Cement, a factory that was established in 2006 (Photo: Social Media)

Addis Abeba  Gunmen who were identified by local residents as members of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) have abducted Chinese nationals working for the East Cement Factory, which is found in North Shoa Zone, Oromia region, residents told Addis Standard.

A resident of Fiche town in Girar Jarso district of the zone who spoke to Addis Standard on conditions of anonymity said the members of the armed group abducted the Chinese nationals after they infiltrated into the premises of the cement factory on Thursday morning.

According to the resident, the rebel group attempted to advance and control the zonal capital, Fiche town, though government security forces were able to thwart the attempt after “fierce and lengthy fighting.”

“Members of the armed group [OLA] seized the cement factory and abducted Chinese workers early in the morning [Thursday]. Then, long and steady fighting between the rebel group and government forces continued until 2 PM [local time],” the resident added.

The fighting calmed when the rebel forces started to retreat back to their hiding places after lengthy fighting. Nevertheless, the rebel group took several Chinese nationals with them as the government forces were unable to rescue them, according to the resident.

Another resident of Fiche town who corroborated the “intense fighting” said business activities and services were closed yesterday as the fighting erupted only three to five kilometers away from the town.

He also confirmed that the rebels had taken Chinese citizens away with them as they retreated following intense fighting.

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Both residents were unable to tell the exact number of the abductees.

East Cement, founded by Chinese investors in 2006, is not the sole focus of armed groups. In January 2023, Addis Standard reported that 20 employees from the Dangote Cement Factory who had been abducted by unidentified gunmen were released after paying a ransom ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 birr each.

Previously, Dangote Cement, situated in the Adea Berga district of the East Shewa Zone in Oromia Regional State, had also fallen victim to similar kidnappings. In December 2022, gunmen kidnapped 30 company employees who were traveling on a company bus in the same vicinity.

East Cement Factory declined to provide an explanation about the recent incident when contacted by Addis Standard. Attempts to obtain more information from the North Shewa Zone police command were also unsuccessful. AS

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