Satellites Show Scorched Earth in South Sudan's Unity State

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As South Sudanese combatants signed a cessation of hostilities agreement in Addis Ababa on Thursday, January 23, new images from the Satellite Sentinel Project, or SSP, confirmed the systematic and intentional destruction of civilian homes in the town of Bentiu and across other parts of Unity state.  DigitalGlobe images of Bentiu, Mayom, and Khor Bwow and small villages along the road between Bentiy and Mayom all document widespread destruction.
 
Satellite photographs from January 19 of Khor Bwow, a small riverbed area northeast of Bentiu, show 399 torched dwellings believed to have been used for shelter by pastoral groups with herds of livestock.  Images of the area  from January 1, 2014 showed the dwellings intact.
 
In the state capital of Bentiu, SSP captured fresh images documenting the devastation described in media reports. U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović called the capital city of Unity state a “ghost town” that “does not exist anymore.” Šimonović described seeing 15 bodies lying in the streets of Bentiu and related accounts of mass killings, sexual violence, and the use of child soldiers. Witnesses and survivors who had escaped Bentiu also spoke of killings and described instances of gang rape.