Civilians Caught in the Crossfire : The Bombing of Abu Kershola and Burning of Ad Dandour

Civilians in the Crossfire report cover
Civilians in South Kordofan, Sudan, continue to bear the brunt of the recent escalation in hostilities between the rebel Sudan Revolutionary Front, or SRF, in this case comprised of forces from the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N and the Darfurian Justice and Equality Movement, or JEM, and the government Sudan Armed Forces, or SAF. Two paradigmatic examples are the warring parties’ struggle over strategic garrison towns that led to the burning of Ad Dandour and the repeated indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas in Abu Kershola. Exclusive DigitalGlobe satellite imagery secured by the Satellite Sentinel Project, or SSP, confirms the recent fighting’s destructive impact on both towns and corroborates reports from citizen journalists who traveled to the area during a lull in hostilities.
The bombardment of Abu Kershola
In recent weeks both the SAF and SRF have been trading escalating rhetoric about Abu Kershola, a strategic garrison town in South Kordofan. Home to approximately 45,000 people in the northeastern portion of South Kordofan in Sudan, Abu Kershola (see Figure 1) has become a symbol of the war raging on Sudan’s periphery.
The SRF took control of the town in a dramatic coordinated rebel offensive on April 27, 2013.2 The strike, which reached Umm Rawaba in North Kordofan, was one of the rebel coalition’s first joint-forces operations as the Sudan Revolutionary Front. Since then the SAF has made five attempts to regain control of the town, before ultimately suceeding.As a result of escalating violence in the region, most of the town’s population fled north to al Rahad. According to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or UN OCHA, more than 30,000 people are sheltering in schools under trees and in makeshift shelters around al Rahad.
The Enough Project’s Satellite Sentinel Project, or SSP, received DigitalGlobe satellite imagery taken of the village of Abu Kershola on of May 15, 2013, showing multiple craters in and around the village.(see Figures 2 and 3) Figure 3 highlights 10 craters close to the main residential and market area of Abu Kershola, and Figure 2 shows those, in addition to at least another 10 craters on the north and west side of the town. In DigitalGlobe Analytics Center’s assessment, of the 20 craters visible in Figure 3, four were caused by artillery, while the other 16 are consistent with aerial bombardment. A May 15, 2013, statement from SRF spokesperson Al Gadi Rumboy confirmed that “Sudanese aircraft dropped 12 bombs on the village.”
Several residential structures were destroyed or severely damaged by the bombing. (see Figures 2 and 3) DigitalGlobe’s Analytics Center did not find any evidence of SAF or SRF forces remaining in the village in the May 15 imagery. No obvious military targets were observed near the bomb craters in the village, suggesting that the bombs were dropped indiscriminately in civilian areas. (see Figure 3)