Satellites Show Sudan Armed Forces Increasing Air Attack Capacity Near Southern Border

WASHINGTON -- The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has confirmed that the Sudan Armed Forces, or SAF, is upgrading air bases recently captured from rebels in Sudan’s Blue Nile border area, which increases Sudan’s capacity to carry out airstrikes along the border and in neighboring South Sudan.

DigitalGlobe satellite imagery, analyzed by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative for SSP, also appears to show active enhancement of two airbases seized in Kurmuk on 2 November, including four new helicopter landing pads in the past week. Imagery also shows three helicopter gunships and an Antonov – a plane often used in SAF bombing campaigns – recently present on the newly improved airstrip in Blue Nile state’s capital of ad-Damazin. In addition, SSP spotted a new, 250-meter expansion in progress at the ad-Damazin airstrip.

Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast stated:

“The airfield improvements suggest Sudan’s readiness to widen its aerial bombing campaign in its border areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, as well as neighboring South Sudan. If this buildup and bombing campaign isn’t countered aggressively by the international community, it appears likely that Khartoum’s actions will plunge Sudan even more deeply into internal war as well as ignite a full-scale war with South Sudan. This is threatening to explode into the largest conventional war on the face of the earth.”

The Enough Project has released a new video, “Bombing in South Sudan,” featuring Prendergast and Enough Policy Advisor Omer Ismail, who just returned from the region, where he heard accounts of refugees from Blue Nile State.

“The indiscriminate bombing of refugees seeking safety from war is a grave violation of international humanitarian law and core principles of human rights,” said Charlie Clements, MD, Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. “Our analysis of these images underscores the urgent threat to human security on both sides of Sudan’s North-South border.”

SSP also found three visible craters on the Kurmuk runway, which Harvard and DigitalGlobe analysts deemed to be consistent with recent artillery and aerial bombardment, likely a result of recent fighting between the SAF and Sudan People’s Liberation Army – North (SPLA-N), which must be repaired before the location can be fully operational.

SSP’s report states: “On 28 September, when SPLA-N forces still controlled Kurmuk, there appeared to be one area consistent with a helipad at a compound. As of 10 November, there are now five areas consistent with helipads at that same compound in Kurmuk, which indicates that as many as four additional helipads have been built by SAF in approximately a week since the SAF captured Kurmuk. These helipads will allow SAF to base helicopter gunships and transport helicopters needed for the transport of air assault infantry near the border with South Sudan.”

Since 8 November, the Government of Sudan (GoS) has reportedly conducted an aerial bombardment campaign against refugee camps in South Sudan. The bombings follow a formal complaint by Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir to the United Nations Security Council, claiming that South Sudan is supplying weapons to South Sudan-aligned rebels operating in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. On 6 November, Bashir said that “the armed forces, the police forces, the security and the People's Defense Forces are always ready to teach the aggressors more lessons.”  South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir accused Bashir of using these accusations to justify a “pending invasion of the South.”

The first aerial bombardment of a refugee camp by SAF allegedly occurred in Guffa, Upper Nile State, South Sudan on 8 November.  SAF reportedly launched a four-hour bombardment on the camp, killing 7 people and destroying structures. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that the area is not a formal refugee camp, though approximately 400 refugees are present there.

The second aerial bombardments occurred on 10 November, when SAF allegedly dropped four bombs in and around a refugee camp in Yida, Unity State, South Sudan.  One bomb reportedly fell near a school in session but did not detonate. Unexploded ordinance was later reported to have been found in the side of the school, while a reporter witnessed a white plane flying north.

Links to Report and DigitalGlobe Satellite Imagery

Read the latest SSP report, “Radius of Operations: Sudan Increases Air Attack Capacity”: http://www.satsentinel.org/report/radius-operations-sudan-increases-air-attack-capacity

View or download DigitalGlobe satellite imagery: http://www.flickr.com/photos/enoughproject/sets/72157627976795387/

View or embed new Enough Project video, “Bombing in South Sudan”: http://youtu.be/gZm46SEKOwE

###

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 Watchprovided seed money to launch SSP. The Enough Projectcontributes 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 Initiativeprovides research and leads the collection, human rights analysis, and corroboration of on-the-ground reports that contextualizes the imagery. DigitalGlobeprovides satellite imagery and additional analysis.