News / Africa

Northern Sudan Reinforces Military in Southern Kordofan State

Satellite image of Southern Kordofan State, July 2011, showing Sudan Armed Forces troop and weapons movements
Satellite image of Southern Kordofan State, July 2011, showing Sudan Armed Forces troop and weapons movements

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Joe DeCapua

New satellite images show a continued build-up of northern Sudanese forces in Southern Kordofan State.

While Southern Kordofan is part of north Sudan, it’s been the scene of border clashes between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the SPLA, which is loyal to south Sudan. Civilians have been caught in the middle of the conflict since it began several weeks ago. The fighting continues, just days before southern Sudan becomes an independent nation.

“On July 4th, DigitalGlobe satellites captured approximately a regiment or more moving through Kadugli town. These are Sudan Armed Forces. They were towing artillery. They had multiple vehicles, including infantry transport and numbered at least a thousand troops or more,” said Nathaniel Raymond, director of operations at the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

He said it’s not clear where they came from or where they were going, but their convoy stretched some two kilometers.

By land and air

“The imagery we captured,” he said, “shows transport operations both on ground and apparently by air at Kadugli by the Sudan Armed Forces. We captured an Il-76 cargo plane on the ground at Kadugli either picking up or dropping off personnel and materials.”

The images also show “heavy reinforcement” of an SAF installation within Kadugli.

“This is consistent with reports that there have been battles between the SPLA and the Sudan Armed Forces in the area around Kadugli, including to the west at Al Hamra and to the southeast, as well,” said Raymond.

The images indicate the reinforcement at Kadugli includes about six artillery pieces.

“Several weeks ago, we were watching basically an escalation in the Nuba Mountains. Now we are seeing out and out combat operations,” he said.

Khartoum

The Khartoum government has said that since Southern Kordofan State will remain part of the north after southern Sudan’s independence, it has the right to deploy troops wherever it wants there.

Raymond responded, “The reaction of the Satellite Sentinel Project to that statement is, yes, the government of north Sudan has the right to deploy its troops wherever it wants. But it does not have the right to use heavy weaponry indiscriminately against civilians. And what we’ve documented is the use of aerial and artillery bombardment…against civilian targets throughout the Nuba Mountains.”

There’s also documented evidence, he said, of the displacement of thousands of people in Southern Kordofan State.

Missing?

Last week, the SSP reported that about 7,000 civilians, who had sought shelter near the U.N. mission compound in Kadugli, were missing. Their whereabouts are still unknown.

“We are continuing to analyze imagery to look for any indication of where they may be,” Raymond said, adding, “The imagery has shown clear evidence that civilians have been running for their lives.”

The Satellite Sentinel Project is calling on the Khartoum government to end any military operations endangering civilians.

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