The Sudan military rescued 17 of the Chinese workers who were abducted from their camp in South Kordofan on Saturday. They were reportedly taken to a safe place, but at least 29 workers are still being held.

The total number of Chinese nationals being held is currently unclear. The China Daily reported that 47 workers were taken when rebels from the Southern People's Liberation Army North (SPLA-N) raided a construction site owned by China's Power Construction Corporation over the weekend, while CNN reported that a total of 70 workers were kidnapped.

The SPLA-N is an off-shoot of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and its militarized arm, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

The SPLA started as a politically motivated rebel group during Sudan's lengthy civil war, but became a legitimate political party after founding of South Sudan in July. However, the SPLA-N, still considered a separated affiliate of the party, is actively fighting against the government of Omar al-Bashir, the President of Sudan.

The rebel group stated that the Chinese workers were taken after a battle with the Sudanese army, adding that they took the workers for their own protection, according to Voice of America.

China's Ministry of Commerce has issued a warning for Chinese companies in Sudan, urging them to institute stronger safety and security measures.

China is Sudan's biggest trade partner and the two countries did $8.83 billion in business in 2010. Sudan is one of China's main oil suppliers.