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[Dehai-WN] VOA: Sudan Military May be Poised for Major Offensive

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2012 22:30:02 +0100

Sudan Military May be Poised for Major Offensive

Joe DeCapua

January 25, 2012

Analysts say new satellite images of Sudan's Southern Kordofan State
indicate a major government military offensive is about to begin against the
Nuba people. The images were released Wednesday by the Satellite Sentinel
Project (SSP).

Government forces have been fighting the rebel SPLA-North Sector in Southern
Kordofan, causing thousands of civilians to flee to South Sudan.

De Capua interview with Nathaniel Raymond

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"What we're seeing is the grounds for issuing a Human Security Alert, which
we issued today," said Nathaniel Raymond, director of the Harvard
Humanitarian Initiative in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which analyzed the
images."Satellite imagery collected by DigitalGlobe has captured evidence of
road construction and the presence of heavy armor units in position to the
Kauda Valley. The Kauda Valley is where at least 200,000 civilians of the
Nuba people are currently taking refuge," he said.

No escape?

Images also indicate the route that's been used by thousands of civilians to
cross into South Sudan appears to be under the control of the Sudanese Armed
Forces. Raymond said the route "appears to be blocked, limiting the movement
of civilians who may still be trying to flee the Kauda Valley and the Nuba

There are also images of an airbase where improvements are being made.

"We see the construction of an airstrip at Talodi, which is approximately 30
miles or 50 kilometers from Kauda Valley. Why this is important is that the
runway there is being lengthened to approximately 1800 meters. It takes 1500
to 1550 meters to land an Antonov. An Antonov is the plane which has been
used to drop bombs and explosive ordinance of many types. With this new
strip, they will be able to conduct high tempo air operations into the Kauda
Valley, combined with the infrastructure improvements needed to deploy heavy
armor in coordination with that air support," said Raymond.

Witnesses say it was an Antonov plane that dropped bombs Monday on a refugee
center just across the border from Southern Kordofan in South Sudan. Images
also show helicopter gunships at the Kadugli airbase

The Satellite Sentinel Project issued a Human Security Alert last year for
the disputed oil rich region of Abyei two months before it was attacked by
Sudanese forces. "We saw almost an identical force pattern and
infrastructure pattern prior to the invasion of Abyei region," said Raymond.

Final assault

Analysts believe the military offensive could begin soon. "At this point,
there's approximately 8 to 9 weeks before the start of the rainy season. And
it makes sense based on the very clear statements of indicted war criminal
Governor Ahmed Haroun and President Bashir that they intend to take the
Kauda Valley, if possible, likely before the rainy season begins again," he

The Satellite Sentinel Project said the images indicate "preparation for a
final assault against the Nuba people." It said when the fighting began last
June in Southern Kordofan there were more than one million Nuba people in
the state. It estimates there are now between 200,000 and 400,000.

"During that time you have had more than half of the Nuba population killed,
displaced internally or displaced into South Sudan," he said, adding, "It is
crucial to note that this is occurring with the backdrop of what we call a
green famine. The Famine Early Warning System, the United Nations and the
U.S. government have made it very clear that the food security situation in
the Nuba Mountains and the Kauda Valley is precarious."

The SSP said reports from the ground say the price of sorghum has

Raymond said, "People are eating reserve foods and in some cases eating bark
and leaves. If there is not immediate humanitarian assistance into this
restricted area, it is a very real possibility that a famine could occur by
some estimates as early as March. And we're talking 200,000 civilians at
least cut off from escape, cut off from humanitarian aid and cut off from

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. Photo: Satellite Sentinel Project

. Satellite image of helicopters at the Sudanese airbase at Kidugli.


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Received on Wed Jan 25 2012 - 16:30:05 EST
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