Early Warning of Attacks on Civilians


Monitoring Attacks, Targets, and Violence

Satellite imagery can tell us who is preparing to attack, the general location of their targets, and how violent the onslaught will be.

On September 22, SSP captured imagery of troops and heavy artillery massing within striking range of the then-rebel stronghold of Kurmuk, Blue Nile, Sudan. We recognized the potential disaster and immediately issued a human security warning, enabling the people of Kurmuk to flee house before the bombs began to fall.

The example of Kurmuk illustrates the Satellite Sentinel Project's ability to serve as an early warning system. SSP identifies artillery build-ups and issues human security warnings to people in danger of attack.

Evidence of Attacks to Come

Imagery showing aircraft, tanks, trucks, and troops can provide compelling evidence of attacks soon to come.

SSP accurately predicted Sudan Armed Forces, or SAFs, invasion of Abyei in May 2011, including the road invading forces would use. The elevation of dirt roads on a seasonal schedule is not rare in Sudan, but it is necessary for tank and heavy artillery movement. We documented this elevation in areas where roads were not traditionally elevated.  

SSP identified artillery in camps around the Abyei region and elevated roads connecting these camps to Abyei town. Reported weapons consistent with the tanks, helicopters, and mobile artillery identified by SSP were all apparently used in the attack.  

History Repeating Itself

Now we see history repeating itself – this time in the Kauda Valley of the Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan, Sudan. SSP's analysts documented the construction of elevated roads leading towards the Kauda Valley from areas controlled by the Sudan Armed Forces. This is consistent with the road construction our analysts documented around Abyei before the Sudan Armed Forces invaded in May 2011. 

Based on this analysis, on January 25, 2012, SSP issued a human security alert after noting the building of elevated roads, lengthening of airstrips, and troops capable of rapid deployment to the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North, or SPLA-N, controlled Kauda Valley, South Kordofan.  

Military Equipment Identified by SSP

Mi24 attack helicopter


  • Mi-24 "Hind" Helicopter Transport and Gunship
  • Mi-8 and M-17 "Hip" Helicopter Transport and Gunship
  • G-222 Transport Aircraft
  • Il-76 (Iluyshin 76) "Candid" Heavy Transport Plane
  • Antonov 24 (AN-24) and 26 (AN-26) "Coke" Transport Planes
  • Yak-40 "Codling" Transport Plane
  • Sukhoi Su-25K ("Frogfoot") Twin-engine Jet Aircraft
  • Nanchang Q5 (or A5) "Fantan" Jet Ground Attack Aircraft

Military Vehicles

  • HET – Heavy Equipment Transports
  • Main Battle Tanks Consistent with T-55s or T-64s
  • Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV)
  • Armored Personnel Carriers (APC)
  • BM-21 "Grad" Mobile Military Rocket Launcher (MRL)

Timeline Tracking Tanks and Troops

March 9 SSP identified combat-ready Sudan-aligned militias and South Sudan-aligned militias within striking range of each other, in some cases, less than 20 miles north of Abyei town. (imagery)
March 16 Four light trucks are identified in the military installation near the Diffra SAF base (imagery), near a checkpoint identified by fortification and the road stop/speed bump.
March 19 A horseshoe formation, likely built as a southwest facing firebase, at the SAF compound near Bongo. (imagery)
March 20 The Government of Sudan deploys approximately 1,500 northern police to the areas of Boffo, Diffra, and Goli in northern Abyei, Sudan. Imagery shows fortified camps in the area. (imagery)
May 24 SSP imagery shows infantry troops in a marching formation and towed artillery at El Obeid base in North Kordofan, Sudan. (imagery)
June 2-August 9 The Government of Sudan’s Central Reserve Police, or CRP, builds up vehicles and personnel present in Kadugli, South Kordofan.
July 2 Imagery shows BM-21 multiple rocket launch systems within range of fighting locations in South Kordofan. (imagery)
July 4

1. A SAF convoy is seen traveling through Kadugli, South Kordofan. The convoy includes approximately 1000 troops, 80 vehicles, including light vehicles, heavy transports, and towed artillery.
2. Heavy transport planes are at the Kadugli airstrip in South Kordofan.

September 21 SSP identifies an approximately brigade strength SAF force within 40 miles of SPLA-N controlled Kurmuk, Blue Nile State, Sudan.
October 24 SAF expands the airstrip at El Damzin, basing three attack helicopters and one Antonov. This indicates SAF’s increased air power based in Blue Nile state.
November 2 SAF takes control of Kurmuk, Blue Nile, Sudan and works on upgrading the airstrip, making it SAF’s closes airstrip along Sudan’s border with South Sudan. SAF built four new helipads at the base.

Reports and Imagery of Tanks and Troops

1/25/12 - Siege: Evidence of SAF Encirclement of the Kauda Valley

11/14/11 -  Launch Point: Corroboration of Reported SAF Air Attacks in South Sudan

11/11/11 - Radius of Operations: Sudan Increases Air Attack Capacity

10/13/11 - In Close Proximity: Alleged Abduction, Detention and Extra-Judicial Killings by Abu Tira

9/23/11 - State of Emergency: Threat of SAF Attack on Kurmuk

7/6/11 - Convoy: Evidence of Heavy Military Activity in Kadugli, South Kordofan

7/2/11 - Strike Range: Apparent Deployment of SAF Mobile Rocket Launchers Near South Kordofan

6/30/11 - Bombardment: Aerial and Artillery Attacks in the Nuba Mountains

5/28/11 - Burned to the Ground: Evidence of Potential War Crimes and the Intentional Destruction of Abyei Town by the Government of Sudan

5/26/11 - Looting Abyei: Ground and Satellite Corroboration

5/24/11 - Abyei Invasion: Evidence of SAF Incursion into Abyei; and Fact Sheet on Sudan Armed Forces Invasion

4/7/11 - Range of Attack: Deployment of SAF Attack Helicopters, Tanks Near Abyei

3/22/11 -  Abyei Incursion: Evidence of Northern-Aligned Forces Deployed to Abyei Region

3/10/11 - Frontline Abyei: Evidence of Military Escalation in Abyei Region

8/21/12 - SitRep: Disposition of Aircraft at El Obeid Airbase, El Obeid, Sudan