“They Bombed Everything that Moved”: Aerial military attacks on civilians and humanitarians in Sudan, 1999 – 2011 (updated)


Eric Reeves, May 2011; updated November 2016 | http://sudanreeves.org/2016/11/10/7566/


This report grows out of my belief that the almost complete anonymity and invisibility of Sudanese civilian victims of targeted aerial military assaults is morally intolerable. So, too, are such attacks on humanitarian aid workers and operations, including hospitals and feeding centers. There have been many casualties among relief personnel.


For more than twelve years, these assaults have been standard counter-insurgency strategy on the part of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime in Khartoum. As I argue and as the facts demonstrate, such a strategy-obscenely destructive in its consequences-has no historical precedent anywhere in the world.


 (The most recent update to this report was made in September 2013 | http://sudanreeves.org/wp-admin/post.php?post=7563&action=edit/.  Some editing and updating included in this text reflect events and reports subsequent to September 2013)

Inline image 1


Photograph of wounded in the Nuba Mountains taken by Dr. Tom Catena, the only surgeon in the region, confronting daily onslaughts of civilians who have been attacked by Khartoum's military aircraft.

CONTENTS (the full report runs to over 30,000 words with complete bibliography and all citations; the Excel data spreadsheet has more than 1,800 detailed entries)


Executive summary


[1]  Analytic introduction


[2]  Schematic history, organized by year


[3]  Explanation of methodology and data


[4]  Bibliography, including maps and news wire reports, the basis for an extensive archive of confirmed reports of aerial attacks on civilian and humanitarian targets. The culminating Excel data spreadsheet, representing data as of June 2012, can be found at | June-5-2012-data-spreadsheet-FINAL/.


[Update, November 2016: As of June 2012, approximately 1,800 confirmed aerial attacks on civilians and/or humanitarians by the air force of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime had been authoritatively established (see below for criteria), and are represented in detail on the data spreadsheet linked here.  Far more than 200 additional attacks have been authoritatively reported in the intervening four years---in Darfur as well as in the "Two Areas," South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.  This brings the confirmed total of such attacks---all war crimes---to more than 2,000.  There is no sign that the regime believes that the international community is serious about ending   these violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, which in aggregate are crimes against humanity (see below).]


Executive summary

At various moments during the past two decades, partially in response to the Rwandan genocide and other large-scale atrocity crimes, the international community has expressed its collective commitment to the idea of a "responsibility to protect" civilians-civilians who cannot be protected by their government, or indeed are being attacked by their government. Yet despite this professed commitment to universal human rights and to the principles of humanitarian law, for more than a decade the Government of Sudan (the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime) has engaged in a relentless campaign of deliberate aerial assaults on its own civilians and international humanitarian relief efforts.


This military campaign is unique, presently and historically: never has a recognized government and member of the United Nations, over many years, deliberately and extensively bombed, strafed, and rocketed its own citizens-with almost complete impunity. These attacks continue today in Darfur on a large scale, and occasionally are reported in South Sudan, which was the primary target through 2002.


This report attempts to provide context for a large archive of data representing aerial attacks on civilian and humanitarian targets that have been reported and confirmed over the past twelve years. It offers a substantial framing introduction that discusses the nature, motives, and consequences of such attacks, as well as a schematic history, organized by year from 1999 to 2011 [and extended by means of four subsequent updates to June 2011; a final update was made in September 2013 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1XZ/].


More than 1,800 incidents have been sufficiently confirmed to be included in the Excel data spreadsheet that represents the heart of these research efforts [N.B. this figure is from the June-5-2012-data-spreadsheet-FINAL]. Although numbers of casualties for particular attacks are provided where they are known, in the vast majority of cases-even when the fact of civilian casualties is explicitly noted by the source-there is no figure available, and I have been obliged to indicated simply "unknown." It is thus not possible to quantify with any precision the numbers of casualties in the attacks, except to say that they are many, many thousands.


The methodology for data collection and use (from a great many data sets and reports) is included in a separate section. There I discuss, among other issues, efforts to eliminate redundancy, establish precise geographic location, and provide evidence of the intent to attack civilian noncombatants and humanitarian operations. This preface also offers a bibliography with a wide range of individual sources, data sets, reports, research tools (including maps), and basic bibliographic information for contemporaneous news wire reports.


Without an end to the climate of impunity that reigns in Darfur-an ongoing catastrophe largely ignored as international attention has swung to North/South issues-these barbaric attacks will continue and the chances of bringing perpetrators to justice will diminish.


May 2011


[NOTE: November 2016: I have included very few photographs of bombing victims in this part of my report; but in addition to the Excel data spreadsheet that records the evidence of more than 1,800 deliberate aerial assaults on civilians and humanitarians, I have also compiled a terribly grim "album" of such photographs.  Some are extremely disturbing, and I felt including them within the body of this report would simply be too distracting from my primary effort to explain the significance of the aerial assaults and the effects on civilians.  The photographs, with explanatory captions and attributions, may be found at | http://wp.me/p45rOG-1Ya/. ]



Eric Reeves, Senior Fellow at Harvard University's François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights





About Eric Reeves: http://sudanreeves.org/about-eric-reeves

Philanthropy: goo.gl/Ii4buw