Chokepoint: Evidence of SAF Control of Refugee Route to South Sudan (Report)

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Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), through the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery, has confirmed that at least a battalion sized unit of Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) appear to control the main route civilians reportedly use to flee South Kordofan for Yida refugee camp. The interior of the apparent base, which is located in the town of Toroge, contains objects consistent with 80 to 90 tent-like structures, infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), artillery, and heavy armor vehicles, which appear to be main battle tanks. In Siege: Evidence of SAF Encirclement of the Kauda Valley released 25 January 2012, SSP reported that the SAF had restricted access to the road leading towards South Sudan from South Kordofan. The imagery in this report specifically identifies a new fortified chokepoint along that road under apparent SAF control, chokepoint: evidence of saf control of refugee route to south sudan Satellite Sentinel Project reported by human security alert which was established sometime after 23 November 2011.

SSP has also identified smoke plumes consistent with tube artillery bombardment near that apparent SAF base at Toroge. An Antonov An-24, an aircraft often used by SAF for harassment aerial bombardment, was also sighted less than 5 km from Toroge. These images are consistent with reports of artillery and aerial bombardment in the area.

There is evidence consistent with civilian dwellings in Toroge having been abandoned. Some of those structures appear to have been destroyed, indicated by scorched earth and some burned buildings. This evidence, in part, is consistent with similar imagery collected in the town of Buram. There, according to SSP’s analysis, structures are consistent with having been abandoned sometime between 21 May and 1 November 2011.1 Toroge is approximately 17 km / 10 mi south of Buram on the Buram-Jau road. Civilians have reportedly fled both Toroge and Buram.

The recent entrenchment of SAF forces at Toroge effectively severs the main route civilians fleeing South Kordofan have taken to reach the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan. The camp, approximately 45 km / 28 mi south of Toroge, is currently housing at least 24,000 refugees from South Kordofan,2 according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). This act by the Government of Sudan further threatens the approximately 200,000 civilians remaining in the Nuba Mountains, who already face bombardment and imminent starvation.

Timeline of SAF and SPLA-N Fighting near Toroge
On 1 December 2011, SAF alleged that they captured the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North’s (SPLA-N) stronghold of Toroge, South Kordofan. A SPLA-N rebel fighter reported that fighting had been occurring in the area since 30 November 2011 and had spread to an area 15 km / 9 mi east of Toroge where SAF was reportedly attacking with heavy artillery and tanks. Yasir Arman, Secretary General of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), confirmed the attacks on the Buram-Toroge area and reported that the SAF offensive resulted in significant civilian displacement from the area.