Tanks and attack helicopters have been spotted near the volatile Abyei region of Sudan, escalating concerns that northern and southern forces are engaging in a mass buildup of weaponry as negotiations between the sides continue to stagnate. New satellite images, obtained by the Satellite Sentinel Project, showed what appear to be nine northern armored tanks, attack helicopters, pickup trucks and a fixed-wing airplane that have been positioned in the contested area over the past two months. Northern and southern Sudanese have fought for years over Abyei, a section of oil-endowed land spanning the country’s regions and religions. As southern Sudanese independence inches closer, fighting has escalated between ethnic southern and northern tribes in the area. “Abyei is the critical linchpin in the country’s peaceful transition into two Sudans,” said Eliza Griswold, senior fellow at the New America Foundation. In March, the Satellite Sentinel Project published images depicting the destruction of a village near Abyei that had reportedly been burned to the ground. On Thursday, the project said that militarization of the region had escalated to the point where Sudan’s national army was positioning its own weapons along the border.
Excerpt, JOSH KRON, Satellite Photos Show Weaponry in Sudan, New York Times, April 7, 2011. Satellite Sentinel Project