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Clooney's satellites catch artillery barrage in Sudan

New satellite images also show Sudan Army has created choke point on refugee route to South Sudan.

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George Clooney in South Sudan in October 2010. (Tim Freccia/Enough Project/GlobalPost)

BOSTON — George Clooney's satellites photographed an artillery barrage in the Sudan border region of South Kordofan.

Earlier this week Clooney's satellite project showed proof the Sudan army was preparing for an assault against an area with civilians.

Now the visually striking image released Friday by the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) shows evidence of an actual artillery attack with images of a line of six grey smoke plumes on a ridge above the town of Toroge.

The Satellite Sentinel Project was conceived by George Clooney and funded by him and others in his Hollywood crowd.

The DigitalGlobe satellite images, analyzed by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, are consistent with reports of recent fighting in the area.

In it latest report “Choke Point: Evidence of SAF Control of Refugee Route to South Sudan” show that the Sudan Armed Forces have created a choke point where artillery, battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles control the main evacuation route for refugees attempting to flee to safety in South Sudan.

The latest Satellite Sentinel Project report also includes a satellite image of a plane in flight. It appears to be an Antonov An-24, a type of aircraft reportedly used by SAF to indiscriminately bomb Nuba civilians.

More from GlobalPost: Clooney's satellite images show Sudan Army preparations for assault

“The Sudanese army’s choke point just 45 kilometers, or 28 miles, north of the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan shows that the estimated 200,000 civilians in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan are cut off from receiving humanitarian aid and from fleeing to UN refugee camps in South Sudan," said John Prendergast, Enough Project Co-founder.

"Now is the time for the US and the international community to deliver a cross-border humanitarian aid operation to break the blockade the regime has created, which threatens the lives of thousands of Nuba civilians,” said Prenderast.

Yida camp has been the major receiving point for refugees fleeing the fighting and the approaching famine conditions in South Kordofan.

On January 22, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that there are 24,000 refugees in Yida camp.

The satellite project presented evidence on Jan. 25 that the Sudan military is apparently preparing to launch a full-scale assault against the rebel-held stronghold in the Kauda Valley of the Nuba Mountains and had restricted access to the road leading toward South Sudan through Buram and Jau.

The images in the new satellite project report provides visual confirmation of a fortified choke point that appears to prevent civilians from fleeing the violence.

“The international community must not wait to protect these civilians, and cannot claim there was no warning that the Government of Sudan was preparing to attack its own people," said John C. Bradshaw, Enough Project Executive Director.

The satellite project has documented newly elevated roads going to the Nuba Mountains from Sudan military-controlled areas. Images show the buildup of forces in positions where they can easily deploy along those roads with heavy armor, artillery and close air support, including helicopter gunships.

Charlie Clements, director of the Harvard Carr Center for Human Rights stated:

“Restricting the ability of civilians to flee a conflict zone can constitute a violation of international humanitarian law. It is crucial that the Government of Sudan allow any and all civilians attempting to flee violence in South Kordofan to do so and seek refuge across the border.”

The Satellite Sentinel Project combines satellite imagery analysis and field reports with Google’s Map Maker to deter the resumption of full-scale civil war between North and South Sudan.

Hollywood actor/director George Clooney came up with the idea of the satellite project to have "paparazzi in the sky" monitor developments in Sudan in order to encourage peace and protect civilians.

Clooney and other Hollywood activists in the group Not On Our Watch provided seed money to launch the Satellite Sentinel Project. The Enough Project, a Washington-based anti-genocide group, contributes field reports, policy analysis, and communications strategy and, together with Not On Our Watch, pressures policymakers by urging the public to act. Google and Trellon collaborated to design the web platform.

The 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.  

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/120127/clooney-sudan-satellites-catch-artillery-barrage