Gunmen raided a Chinese-run oil field near the Somali border on Tuesday, killing 65 Ethiopians and nine Chinese workers, an official of the Chinese company said. An Ethiopian rebel group claimed responsibility.

Seven Chinese workers were kidnapped in the morning attack at the oil installation in a disputed region of eastern Ethiopia, Xu Shuang, the general manager of Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau, told The Associated Press.

China has increased its presence in Africa in recent years in a hunt for oil and other natural resources to feed its rapidly growing economy. Its forays into areas considered politically unstable, however, has exposed Chinese workers to attacks.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front said in a statement sent to the Associated Press they had launched "military operations against units of the Ethiopian armed forces guarding an oil exploration site," in the east of the country.

The rebel group, which is fighting a low-level insurgency with the aim of creating an independent state for ethnic Somalis, warned last year that any investment in the Ogaden area that also benefited the Ethiopian government "would not be tolerated."

Somalia lost control of the region in a war in 1977. The rebel group also has been fighting Ethiopian troops inside Somalia, where Ethiopia has been backing the government in crushing an Islamic movement and re-establishing control over the country.

In Nigeria, armed militants seeking a greater share of that country's oil wealth kidnapped nine Chinese oil workers in January, and two more in March. Two were still being held, though hostages are normally released unharmed in Nigeria, after a ransom is paid.

Also in March in Nigeria, five Chinese telecommunications workers were abducted for two weeks.