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Satellite Images Confirm Village Razing in Nuba Mountains, as Gubernatorial Candidates Trade Charges Ahead of Vote
WASHINGTON – The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has confirmed the razing of more than 350 structures at el-Feid village in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan, Sudan. Front-running candidates vying for the State’s governorship traded charges over attacks in el-Feid that reportedly killed some 20 people ahead of the vote slated for the first week of May.
El-Feid is the hometown of Abdelaziz al-Hilu, the leading candidate of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the State’s Deputy Governor. Hilu is contesting the seat of South Kordofan’s incumbent governor, Ahmed Haroun, who remains under a 2007 indictment by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur.
“When Ahmed Haroun appears, fires tend to start,” said Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast. “We've seen this historically in the Nuba Mountains, in Darfur, and in Abyei. With elections slated soon in South Kordofan, and negotiations reaching a critical point over Abyei, Haroun's militia strategy could be the main obstacle to peace between North and South Sudan. The burned settlements in South Kordofan and Abyei over the past few weeks could be just the onset unless there is a firm response from the international community.”
Hilu has claimed in a statement that northern-aligned Popular Defense Force, or PDF, militias under the command of Haroun attacked el-Feid and the nearby village of Um Barmbita on the morning of April 13, allegedly burning between 300 to 500 houses and reportedly killing more than 20 people, including women and children. Meanwhile, an NCP spokesperson has claimed that SPLM instigated the attack to stoke tensions ahead of the election.
SSP analysis of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery shows evidence consistent with the intentional burning of at least 356 structures at el-Feid. There is also evidence that an area in Um Barmbita, located an estimated 15-20 kilometers northwest of el-Feid, has also been burned, but no visible structures appear to have been destroyed. SSP cannot determine, based on imagery collected, whether the burning at Um Barmbita was intentional.
“The DigitalGlobe satellite imagery collected over el-Feid and analyzed by the Satellite Sentinel Project shows undeniable evidence of fire-setting at el-Feid,” said Harvard Carr Center Executive Director Charlie Clements, MD. “The lack of scorched terrain between clusters of burned buildings and the distances between destroyed structures is consistent with arson. Such attacks represent an assault on civilians’ security and a grave violation of humanitarian law.”
In the past two months, the Satellite Sentinel Project, initiated by George Clooney while on an October 2010 fact-finding mission to Southern Sudan with Prendergast, has documented a significant military build-up by Sudan Armed Forces and northern-aligned militias in South Kordofan. The project has also previously released satellite imagery that confirmed the razing of three villages in the disputed Abyei border region, reportedly by northern-aligned forces.
View or download high-resolution, DigitalGlobe satellite imagery via Flickr.
About the Satellite Sentinel Project
The Satellite Sentinel Project, http://satsentinel.org, combines satellite imagery analysis and field reports with Google’s Map Maker to deter the resumption of full-scale war between North and South Sudan. Not On Our Watch provided seed money to launch SSP. The Enough Project contributes field reports and policy analysis, and, together with Not On Our Watch and our Sudan Now partners, pressures policymakers by urging the public to act. UNOSAT analyzes satellite images and collaborates with Google and Trellon to design the web platform. Harvard Humanitarian Initiative provides research and leads the collection, human rights analysis, and corroboration of on-the-ground reports that contextualizes the imagery. DigitalGlobe provides satellite imagery and additional analysis.
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Contact: Greg Hittelman