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JUBA, March 30 (Reuters) - South Sudanese rebels said on Thursday they had freed three oil workers from Pakistan and India seized by their fighters earlier this month.
The three had been released on the orders of the rebels' leader, former vice president Riek Machar, and were on their way to government areas, his SPLA-IO group said.
The Pakistani national worked for DAR, a consortium including China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), China's Sinopec and Malaysia's Petronas, in Upper Nile state.
The two Indians working for South Sudan's pertoleum ministry were kidnapped in northeast Maiwut county.
"People are in the process of taking them from our headquarters in Pagak to submit them to government," SPLA-IO deputy spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel said.
There were no orders given in relation to locals who were seized alongside the foreigners and they would continue to hold them, Gabriel added.
He did not say why they had been taken. But the rebels have accused foreign oil companies of funding the government and its military in the past.
South Sudan, which split away from Sudan in 2011 after decades of conflict, has been mired in civil war since President Salva Kiir sacked Machar in 2013.
The fighting has forced millions to flee their homes, split much of the population along ethnic lines and paralysed agriculture, leaving the country facing famine, according to the United Nations. (Reporting by Denis Dumo; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Andrew Heavens)