News / Africa

Satellite Images Confirm Northern Sudanese Attacks

Satellite image taken June 28, 2011shows northern Sudanese planes at El Obeid airbase.
Satellite image taken June 28, 2011shows northern Sudanese planes at El Obeid airbase.

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Joe DeCapua

Satellite images released this week of Sudan’s Nuba Mountain region show evidence of attacks by northern Sudanese forces. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in Southern Kordofan State.

“The images we’re seeing over Southern Kordofan tell us two things. The Sudan Armed Forces [SAF] have…what’s consistent with artillery and mortar emplacements around the area of Dilling, where fighting has been reported. And additionally we see planes at the El Obeid airstrip,” said Nathaniel Raymond, director of operations at the Satellite Sentinel Project at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

Sudan Armed Forces

The June 28 images show four fixed-wing aircraft, including ground attack aircraft, and five helicopters, including Mi-24 hind gunships. The Satellite Sentinel Project uses images, analysis and field reports to update conflict areas of Sudan.

“These images corroborate reports of artillery and aerial bombardment by the Sudan Armed Forces against targets throughout south Kordofan, including Nuba civilians,” said Raymond.

Analysts are not able to use the images to determine the number of northern Sudanese troops present.

However, he said, “We have been able to determine that military operations, including evidence consistent with combat air operations, continue.

There’s no direct confirmation that 10 towns in Southern Kordofan State were bombed. But he said, “We have credible reports from the ground, including ground photographs, that are corroborated by the satellite imagery.

Potential offensive?

“They are set up to continue artillery and aerial bombardment. We are also seeing evidence of armor, including reconnaissance vehicles, at Dilling, which suggest potential for forward movement or forward recon, which is often preceding other types of combat action,” said Raymond.

Some analysts say southern Sudan has kept its military in check as independence day approaches, but may take more stronger action against the north after July 9.

“At this point,” he said, “we have no confirmation of a buildup of southern forces on either side of the line. We do have credible reports that southern aligned forces have been engaged in mortar attacks and other combat operations in and around the area of Kadugli.”

Displacement

The thousands displaced in Southern Kordofan State are in need of food, water, shelter and medical care.  But humanitarian agencies have only limited access to the area.

On June 17, images showed displaced people seeking refuge along the northern wall of the U.N. peacekeeping compound in Kadugli.

“Since then, disturbing reports have emerged from the United Nations that approximately 7,000 internally displaced people, who had been there, are now unaccounted for after a reported incident where allegedly northern Sudanese intelligence officers, dressed as Red Crescent workers coerced, impressed those people to move to a stadium in the center of Kadugli,” said Raymond.

But he added that since June 20, there has been no new information on their whereabouts.

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