This report originally appeared on the Satellite Sentinel Project.
New Satellite Sentinel Project imagery provides independent confirmation of Sudan Air Force, or SAF, bombardments in the mountainous Jebel Marra area of North Darfur, where civilians have been bombed for years.The use of indiscriminate aerial bombardment in densely populated areas like East Jebel Marra constitutes a war crime under international law.With these images, showing at least 17 bomb craters across six villages, SSP has confirmed the government’s long-standing practice of indiscriminately dropping bombs that devastate civilians living in the area solely because it is currently controlled by rebel forces.
Ground attacks led by reconstituted Janjaweed forces are exacerbating the impact of the government’s aerial bombardment campaign. DigitalGlobe Intelligence Solutions’ (DGIS3) analysis of satellite imagery found evidence of both air strikes and ground attacks—some in the same location.
Villages burned in Janjaweed attacks
As SAF air strikes escalate, Sudanese government-backed Janjaweed militias are also burning and destroying villages in the area at a magnitude not seen since 2003. SSP imagery from March 21, 2014 shows more than 311 huts burned in six villages in East Jebel Marra.
DGIS found approximately 95 burned huts in the south-central section of Dolma, a small village approximately 63 kilometers southwest of the North Darfur capital of Al Fashir. The huts were burned between February 5 and March 21, 2014.
Some 6,000 government-backed Janjaweed fighters called the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) or Rapid Response Force (RRF) are attacking civilians and torching homes throughout the area.Adding a deadly new dimension to the violent attacks in Darfur, North Darfur’s political power struggles for control of the state are pitting armed militias against one another as intercommunal clashes also erupt.
According to eyewitness reports from March 16-20,7 the paramilitary RSF, a newly reconstituted Janjaweed force backed by the Sudanese government, are conducting vicious ground attacks as SAF conducts heavy airstrikes in this area.
Striking among the damage visible from the sky, approximately 126 huts were torched in Hemeda, a town located two kilometers south of Dolma and 65 kilometers southwest of Al Fashir. A comparison of imagery between February 5 and March 21 shows that most damage was concentrated in the village center.
Before moving into North Kordofan and Darfur, the RSF had led attacks for the Sudanese government on rebels in South Kordofan10 and Blue Nile states. In late February RSF attacked more than 35 towns in South Darfur, killing and raping civilians as they torched homes.11 RSF attacks across North Darfur have destroyed 16 villages west of Mellit town and 25 towns north of Kutum.
Approximately 20 huts were destroyed in the western part of Unjara, located approximately 51 kilometers west-southwest of Al Fashir. Humanitarian organizations estimate 215,000 people are newly displaced across Darfur since the beginning of the year, with 146,000 people displaced from North Darfur areas. Some 35,000 newly displaced families, mostly children and women without food and water, are reportedly moving east toward the North Darfur capital of Al Fashir after fleeing villages burned to the ground near the town of Tawila.
Elsewhere, the RSF ambushed and destroyed a camp for internally displaced people in South Darfur on March 22, burning to death a sheikh, abducting local leaders, destroying water sources, and torching homes and a hospital. The attack has displaced thousands of people, including many into North Darfur.
Photo: Destruction in East Jebel Marra (DigitalGlobe)