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Mass Graves Reported in Sudan

  • Joe DeCapua

Satellite Image of alleged mass graves in Kadugli in Sudan's Southern Kordofan State, July 2011

Satellite Image of alleged mass graves in Kadugli in Sudan's Southern Kordofan State, July 2011

New satellite images of Sudan reportedly show mass graves in Southern Kordofan State.

The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has released images it says are “consistent with allegations that the Sudan Armed Forces and northern militias have killed civilians.”

Analyzing the images

“They show evidence consistent with an alleged mass grave identified by at least two eyewitnesses in the vicinity of Kadugli town. They show the presence of white vehicles, including alleged dump trucks, identified by multiple eyewitnesses as being Sudan Armed Forces vehicles used in house to house searches for civilians, who are allegedly being killed when found,” said Nathaniel Raymond, SSP’s director of operations at the Harvard Humanitarian Project.

The images also show a “pile of white bundles.” Raymond said these are “consistent with alleged wrapped bodies or bodies in body bags.” They were piled near the Episcopal Church of Sudan in Kadugli, the capital of Southern Kordofan State.

Each of the three excavations is reported to be about 90 feet long and 20 feet wide.

Eyewitness accounts

The SSP uses both on-the-ground reports and satellite images in its analysis.

“All of our eyewitness reports - and there are at least five in total that were used for this report - were received by people who had been in Kadugli in the past month and had seen the events described in the report," he said. "The eyewitnesses are independent of each other and they do not see our satellite imagery.”

Reports of possible mass graves in Kadugli were first heard in early June, but Raymond described them as “unverified and vague.” In the following days, that changed.

“By the middle of June we had received the first eyewitness indication that there had potentially been mass systematic killings of civilians through house-to-house searches, including the slitting of throats and the burning of homes,” he said.

The collection of information continued into July.

“By this week, we had enough imagery and eyewitness testimony to be able to identify the three pieces of evidence we feel [are] consistent with mass graves and systematic killing of civilians we published in the report.”

The report has been released to the media, as well as the U.S. government and the international community. Raymond said the Satellite Sentinel Project has asked the U.N. to refer the report to the International Criminal Court.

Still unknown

For weeks, the SSP has been trying to locate some 7,000 internally displaced civilians who had sought shelter outside the U.N. compound in Kadugli. They had gathered there in June, but for unknown reasons, they had left the area are no longer there.

“I’m sad to say that we continue to search for them now. The alleged mass graves that we identified were initially being dug before the 7,000 IDPs allegedly began to leave that area or were forced to leave the area near the U.N. compound. At this point, we still do not know their whereabouts.”

U.N. and humanitarian agencies still have very limited access to Kadugli. Sudan Armed Forces and its allies have been fighting forces loyal to South Sudan in Southern Kordofan State. South Sudan gained its independence from the north last Saturday.