Satellites Show Sudan Armed Forces with Heavy Armor on Road to Rebel Stronghold in Blue Nile State

WASHINGTON – The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has released imagery showing that the Government of Sudan appears ready to launch a massive military drive aimed at the rebel stronghold of Kurmuk in the Blue Nile border area.

DigitalGlobe imagery, captured on 21 September and analyzed by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, reveals heavily camouflaged, mechanized units of Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) comprising at least a brigade –3,000 troops or more. These forces appear to be equipped with heavy armor and artillery, supported by helicopter gunships, and pointed south along the main road from the capital of ad-Damazin. The satellite images reveal a wall of armor, including what appear to be main battle tanks, towed artillery, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers and troop transports, apparently accompanied by half a dozen Hind attack helicopters, near Dindiro town, and within 64 kilometers (40 miles) of Kurmuk.

“Since May, the Government of Sudan has used indiscriminate and disproportionate force, including campaigns to bombard civilians, in the three border areas of Abyei, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile State,” said Enough Project Executive Director John C. Bradshaw. “This irrefutable, visual evidence of massive military operations in Blue Nile State provides a human security warning to civilians in Kurmuk and the surrounding area. The United States and the larger international community should invoke the Responsibility to Protect doctrine to exert greater pressure on the Government of Sudan to spare the lives of non-combatants.”

SSP has also identified apparent craters, consistent with artillery and/or rocket bombardment in the Dindiro area. This corroborates reports that SAF advanced into Dindiro following active bombardment in that area.  

SSP has also analyzed DigitalGlobe imagery taken from 9 to 11 September, showing a major drive of SAF mechanized units, including main battle tanks, from ad-Damazin to points south, and evidence of rapid entrenchment by SAF forces. These images are evidence of rapid SAF advance south of ad-Damazin.

“Since May 2011, SAF and other Government of Sudan-aligned forces, according to evidence collected by SSP, have routinely engaged in attacks against civilians in apparent violation of international humanitarian and human rights law,” said Dr. Charles Clements, Executive Director of the Harvard Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. “These alleged acts have included the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force during Sudan’s invasion of the disputed Abyei region, which resulted in the razing and looting of civilian dwellings and infrastructure; the documented practice of indiscriminately targeting civilian populations through aerial and artillery bombardment in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan; and the reported extra-judicial killing of civilians in and around Kadugli town. Given this track record of gross violations of human rights, these abuses by the Government of Sudan will continue if left unchecked by the international community.”

SSP’s report notes, “There are also credible reports that Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) forces have conducted indiscriminate shelling and other alleged abuses in some cases. The use of indiscriminate and disproportionate force by any party to this conflict could represent a violation of the laws of war and international human rights standards.”

Links to Report and DigitalGlobe Satellite Imagery

Read the latest SSP report, “State of Emergency: Threat of SAF Attack on Kurmuk”:
http://www.satsentinel.org/report/state-emergency-threat-saf-attack-kurmuk

View or download DigitalGlobe satellite images from SSP’s latest report: http://www.flickr.com/photos/enoughproject/sets/72157627607129249/with/6...

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About the Satellite Sentinel Project

The Satellite Sentinel Project, http://satsentinel.org, combines satellite imagery analysis and field reports with Google’s Map Maker to deter the resumption of full-scale civil war between North and South Sudan. Not On Our Watch provided seed money to launch SSP. The Enough Project contributes field reports and policy analysis, and, together with Not On Our Watch and our Sudan Now partners, pressures policymakers by urging the public to act. Google and Trellon collaborated to design the web platform. Harvard Humanitarian Initiative provides research and leads the collection, human rights analysis, and corroboration of on-the-ground reports that contextualizes the imagery. DigitalGlobe provides satellite imagery and additional analysis.