Situation Report: Expanding War in Sudan Threatens Civilians

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The Satellite Sentinel Project has secured independent evidence of the Sudanese government’s large-scale ongoing offensive against the Sudan Revolutionary Front, or SRF. DigitalGlobe analysts’ review of troop disposition over key garrisons across Sudan confirms the Sudan Armed Forces, or SAF, have forward deployed across the country and are positioned for attack. On November 17, 2013, DigitalGlobe satellites confirmed fighting in the Abu Zabad area. Ground sources report that Abu Zabad’s proximity to a major east-west railway line makes it a strategic juncture for supply lines. This satellite imagery shows clear evidence of destruction from active hostilities and craters from aerial bombardment in the town. Although clashes have subsided, civilians in Abu Zabad remain at risk due to the town’s strategic importance. Sudan’s Defense Minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein first announced the massive military operations on November 11, 2013. Hussein, who is currently at large despite an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes in Darfur,said his troops will “not stop until we crush them.” The Satellite Sentinel Project has previously warned of imminent human security threats triggered by this anticipated dry season offensive. The timing is especially concerning because increased hostilities come at harvest time, when many will need to spend time in open areas to reap their crops. Additionally, a critical window of opportunity for long-delayed polio vaccination of children might have been lost. Although the Sudanese government agreed to a ceasefire between November 5th and 11th to facilitate UN vaccination of children in rebel-held areas, which have been denied all types of humanitarian aid for more than two and a half years now, the campaign never got off the ground. Now that the tempo of offensive operations has increased, agreement to a ceasefire will be increasingly difficult.

 

Troops on the Move
 
In a late October 2013 report, the Satellite Sentinel Project highlighted increased activity at installations in both El Obeid and Kadugli, and warned of an impending offensive. DigitalGlobe Analytics has observed major troop deployments from Khartoum and a significant reinforcement in areas in the south over the past two weeks, corroborating that October 2013 projection.
 
DigitalGlobe found evidence of increased training activity and prepositioning of units as early as September 2013 at Khalid Bin Waleed Garrison, where enough trucks to support two infantry battalions were parked in the compound (Figure 1). The most significant activity was observed at Al Rasheed Camp on the south side of Khartoum, where more than 250 trucks, 20 buses and four Heavy-lift Transporters, or HETs, were parked on October 31, 2013 (Figure 2, left panel). The majority of the vehicles at Al Rasheed Camp left the installation by November 11th (Figure 2, right panel). Imagery from November 15th confirms the departure (Figure 2, right panel). The departure of these vehicles from Al Rasheed corresponds to reports of dozens of military vehicles and tanks driving southbound from Khartoum.8 Sources in Sudan report to the Satellite Sentinel Project that the SAF has dispatched some 5,000 troops and 365 vehicles for the offensive.