Sitrep: Explosions in Khartoum

Explosions in Khartoum

At approximately 12:30 a.m. local time on October 24, 2012, a series of explosions
rocked Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.

Within 20 minutes of the conflagration, the Satellite Sentinel Project, or SSP,
communicated with eyewitnesses on the ground, who reported seeing flames, smoke,
and “many explosions” in the Al Shagara neighborhood of southern Khartoum in
the vicinity of an oil storage facility, a military depot, and an ammunitions plant. SSP
received reports that the sky was “red from fireballs,” and that three fighter jets were
“flying fast around southern Khartoum, to the northwest and northeast,” as a fourth,
larger plane flew to the northeast at a much higher altitude.

SSP’s sources said that many citizens flooded the streets in search of news. At
approximately 12:51 a.m., the Governor of Khartoum, Abdelrahman Al-Khidir, stated,
“Until this moment, we do not know the cause of the explosions.”1

Hours later, Ahmad Bilal Osman, the Minister of Culture and Information, stated
in a news conference in Khartoum that “60 percent of [the] Al-Yarmouk ammunition
factory was completely destroyed while 40 percent was partially destroyed.”2 Osman
claimed the facility was attacked by Israeli jets.3

SSP’s comparative analysis of DigitalGlobe imagery acquired on October 12, 2012
and on October 25 confirms the presence of an ammunitions plant at the Yarmouk
Base, located approximately 11 kilometers southwest of the Khartoum International
Airport, and confirms that large explosions took place within the base.

The explosions were centered on a site that, as recently as October 12, consisted
of a 60-meter-long, shed-type building and approximately 40 shipping containers,
each 6.5 meters long, stacked nearby. The October 25 image reveals evidence of
massive explosions at this site and no evidence remains of the 60-meter-long building
or the shipping containers. While SSP cannot confirm that the shipping containers
seen on October 12 remained at the site on October 24, analysis of the imagery is
consistent with the presence of highly volatile cargo in the epicenter of the explosions.

The explosions destroyed two buildings and heavily damaged at least 21 others,
all within 700 meters of the epicenter. Visible damage includes roof panels blown
off and scattered around the area, windows blown out, and walls knocked down.
Nothing remains of the 60-meter building, which appears to have been pulverized in
the blast.

Fields adjacent to the military depot appear to be burned, but there is no
indication of fire damage at the nearby Central Gas and Oil Company depot.
At least six impact craters, each approximately 16 meters wide, are visible near
the epicenter of the explosions and are consistent with craters created by air-delivered
munitions. If the explosions resulted from a rocket or missile attack against material
stored in the shipping containers, then it was an effective surgical strike that totally
destroyed any container that may have remained and the adjacent 60-meter-long,
shed-style building.

1. Al Rakoba, “Big explosions rattle Yarmouk military factory in Khartoum.” October 24, 2012. Available at: http://www.alrakoba.net/news-action-show-id-75440.htm

2. Sudan Tribune, “Sudan accuses Israel of bombing military factory, talks of ‘inside job’”. October 25, 2012. Available at: http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article44324

3. Al Jazeera English, “Khartoum fire blamed on Israeli bombing.” October 25, 2012. Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2012/10/20121024142531802810.html