For the past two years, the Government of Sudan, or GoS, has sent delegations of senior officials, including military and security leaders, accompanied by state media crews, to Sudan Armed Forces, or SAF, bases in border areas during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
On August 19, 2012, on the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the last day of Ramadan, a GoS delegation chartered a plane which took off from Khartoum and crashed on approach to the SAF airstrip in Talodi, South Kordofan. The Talodi delegation was one of four delegations, which the GoS dispatched to hotspots of rebellion during Ramadan 2012. The other three went to SAF bases in El Fasher, North Darfur; Kadugli, South Kordofan; and Kurmuk, Blue Nile state.
The crash killed all 26 passengers - including three generals from military, intelligence and police forces, six ranking leaders of the Popular Defense Force, or PDF militia, a government minister, 11 other senior officials, a five-member state media crew, and the six-member flight crew.
New Satellite Imagery
New satellite imagery obtained by DigitalGlobe for the Satellite Sentinel Project, or SSP, confirms that the plane crashed 1.5 kilometers southeast of the SAF airstrip at Talodi. The plane, a 38-year-old Alfa Airlines Antonov An-26-100 (registration number ST-ARL) missed its first attempted landing, and then crashed as it circled around for a second attempt.
Satellite imagery captured on August 20 and analyzed for SSP by DigitalGlobe's Analysis Center shows that the impact site is on the southwestern slope of Hagar al Nar (Arabic for "stone of fire"), a cone-shaped mountain formed by a volcanic vent, which rises 244 meters above the surrounding plain. The limited size of the debris field, characterized by a black burn pattern dotted with small pieces of debris in a confined area, indicates that the destruction of the plane was caused by the collision with the mountain, and not by any event prior to the moment of impact.
In a January 2012 report, SSP confirmed that between November 29, 2011 and January 13, 2012, SAF leveled the Talodi airstrip and lengthened it from 1,100 to 1,800 meters, thus permitting Antonov aircraft to land there for the first time.
The lengthening and leveling of the airstrip to accommodate Antonovs is militarily significant because the SAF airstrip in Talodi is the closest to the rebel stronghold approximately 50 kilometers (30 miles) away in the Kauda Valley of South Kordofan. SAF uses Antonovs not only to transport forces and cargo, but to indiscriminately bomb civilians in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile state.
About the Satellite Sentinel Project
The Satellite Sentinel Project, or SSP, a partnership between the Enough Project and DigitalGlobe, conducts monitoring of the border between Sudan and South Sudan to assess the human security situation, identify potential threats to civilians, and detect, deter and document war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Enough Project provides field research, policy context, and communications strategy. DigitalGlobe provides imagery from its constellation of satellites and geospatial analysis from the DigitalGlobe Analysis Center. SSP is funded primarily by Not On Our Watch.