Image: Objects consistent with human remains buried at apparent mass grave in El Shaeer, South Kordofan, Sudan.
DigitalGlobe
Images images taken June 17 to Aug. 19 show objects consistent with human remains buried at an apparent mass grave in El Shaeer, South Kordofan, Sudan.
msnbc.com news services
updated 8/24/2011 1:12:44 PM ET 2011-08-24T17:12:44

Satellite imagery had revealed the existence of two more mass graves in a contested region of Sudan, bringing the total number of mass graves sited there to eight, a U.S. monitoring group said Wednesday.

The Satellite Sentinel Project, a group backed by actor and Sudan activist George Clooney, said that witnesses told the group that a backhoe was used to dig some of the graves at sites in Kadugli, South Kordofan. Workers with the Sudanese Red Crescent Society were present during some of the burials, the group said.

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The U.S. group has not made any estimates of the number of bodies it believes have been buried in the graves, saying that onsite research would need to be carried out.

South Kordofan lies just across the border from newly independent South Sudan and has been the site of clashes between government troops from Sudan's Arab north and black tribesmen aligned with the south's Sudan People's Liberation Movement. Many inhabitants of South Kordofan fought for the south during the country's two decades-plus civil war against the north and are ethnically linked to the south.

Story: Birthday wish: 'Lost boys' pin hopes on independent South Sudan

A report released this month by the U.N. human rights office in Geneva said Sudanese security forces allegedly carried out indiscriminate aerial bombardments in South Kordofan that killed civilians in the weeks before South Sudan became independent on July 9. It also alleged that Sudanese forces executed prisoners accused of belonging to the south's Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement before burying them in mass graves.

"The evidence against the Sudanese government continues to compound and has now become impossible to dismiss. It is time for the international community to take serious action and execute its responsibility to protect innocent lives in Sudan," said John Prendergast, co-founder of the activist group the Enough Project.

The Sudanese Red Crescent Society has said that it buried 59 bodies in marked burial sites in Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan state, between mid-June and mid-July.

Image: Apparent mass grave site near Tilo School in Kadugli, South Kordofan, Sudan.
DigitalGlobe
Apparent mass grave site near Tilo School in Kadugli, South Kordofan, Sudan.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it supplied body bags, rubber boots and cameras to SRCS teams tasked with the management of dead bodies, according to spokeswoman Anna Schaaf. The ICRC is not on the ground in South Kordofan.

The satellite group in July reported the first three mass graves as excavated areas measuring about 26 yards by 5 yards visible near a school in the town of Kadugli. The group said that an eyewitness reported seeing 100 bodies or more put into one of the pits on June 8.

'No proof'
Sudan's U.N. envoy dismissed the allegations.

"There is no proof of mass graves there," Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman told Reuters.

Osman added that there have undoubtedly been numerous casualties in the region but said they were caused by the army of newly independent South Sudan, which seceded from Khartoum last month.

Story: UN: Hundreds killed in S. Sudan tribal clashes

Southern Kordofan holds most of Sudan's known oil reserves after the south split away and took its oilfields with it.

Activists have accused Khartoum of launching airstrikes and attacks in Southern Kordofan, targeting the state's ethnic Nuba group, in a bid to stamp out opposition and assert its authority after South Sudan's independence.

The United Nations said tens of thousands have fled the violence in the territory.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Photos: South Sudan declares independence

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  1. South Sudan President Salva Kiir lifts the nation's new constitution to the crowds of people attending an independence ceremony in Juba, South Sudan, on Saturday, July 9. South Sudan celebrated its first day as an independent nation. (Andrew Burton / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Two South Sudan residents wave flags as they celebrate independance during a ceremony in the capital Juba on July 9. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A crowd watches the independence ceremony of South Sudan from a tree in a field in Juba on July 9. (Andrew Burton / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Southern Sudanese migrants perform the jumping dance as they celebrate their country's independence in Kasarani, on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, July 9. (Dai Kurokawa / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A woman carries a South Sudan flag as she arrives at the John Garang Mausoleum for the Independence Day celebrations in the capital Juba, July 9. (Thomas Mukoya / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A man dances in the streets of Juba in South Sudan as crowds celebrate July 8, the day before the birth of their new nation. The north and south have been locked in decades of civil war that resulted in a 2005 agreement allowing for a referendum on southern secession. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Organizers prepare for a celebratory dinner in Juba, the capital of the new country of South Sudan on July 8. (Pete Muller / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. South Sudanese children rehearse their dance routine July 7 to be performed at halftime during a soccer match between South Sudan and Kenya as part of independance day celebrations in Juba. (Paul Banks / UNMIS via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Members of the Sudan People's Liberation Army stand at attention, during a rehearsal for independence, in Juba on July 5. (Pete Muller / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A musician practices before the start of a rehearsal of the Independence Day ceremony in Juba on July 5. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Southern Sudanese boys take shelter from afternoon rains that disrupted rehearsal for independence day celebrations in the capital city of Juba on July 4. (Pete Muller / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image:
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    Above: Slideshow (11) South Sudan declares independence
  2. Image: South Sudan referendum
    Mohamed Messara / EPA
    Slideshow (60) Sudan: A vote on secession

Video: Winds of War, Part 1

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