How the RSF got their 4×4 Technicals: The open source intelligence techniques behind our Sudan exposé
Read on. Wrong people that Amhara are provoking in 2021. Tigray/Sudan double attack will be payback with interest.
(globalwitness)-Today we’re publishing another secret document revealing the financial networks behind Sudan’s most powerful militia – the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). An apparently genuine RSF spreadsheet shows how they bought over 1,000 vehicles, including hundreds of Toyota pickup trucks which the militia frequently convert into armed ‘technicals’.
We obtained the spreadsheet via satirical Sudanese online channel Al Bashoum, which had published a screenshot of one of the pages, but had not put out the full document. Al Bashoum was also the source of some of the seemingly authentic bank documents we analysed in our last report: Exposing the RSF’s Secret Financial Network. We’re publishing the spreadsheet in both its original and in an English translation.
When corroborating the documents, we used a variety of open source intelligence (OSINT) techniques to investigate the names of companies and individuals mentioned. We also checked to see if any of the vehicles appear in contemporaneous photos or videos. We’d like to share what we did, and also lay out some of the questions which we were unable to answer in the time available. We hope that others can help reveal more about the network apparently behind the RSF.
Why do we think the RSF spreadsheet is genuine?
It is possible that this document is too good to be true. After all, leaked financial information for militaries or paramilitary groups is exceedingly rare. (One of the few examples known to Global Witness is this analysis, drawing on captured documents, of the finances of Al Qaida in Iraq in 2005/6, the violent jihadi group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.) Could the document be part of an elaborate misinformation campaign?
In addition to investigating the provenance of the document, contacting individuals and companies named therein, and talking to sources familiar with the RSF leadership, the spreadsheet itself contains information which can be corroborated.
There isn’t one single section of the document that indicates its authenticity. Rather, it is the accumulation of interlocking references to companies, individuals and types of vehicles which, when triangulated using other sources, led us to the conclusion that the document is almost certainly authentic.
When we investigated the companies named using corporate records and analysis of registered website domains, we found familial connections to the leadership of the RSF. When we followed up references to named individuals we found many of them easily on social media, many of them linked to family members of the RSF leadership, and some of them connected to one of the companies named in the spreadsheet. And when we examined the vehicles named in the spreadsheet we found pictures of the same make and model of vehicles, from a variety of independent sources, at almost every stage of the supply chain from Dubai to Sudan. Taken as a whole, it is our opinion that the document is highly likely to be genuine.
Where we could identify the companies or individuals, we wrote to them for comment on why they appeared in the spreadsheet. After repeated attempts to contact 42 companies, only nine companies gave full or partial responses. These responses are integrated in the blog where appropriate, and we annotated the spreadsheet with the responses we received. The majority of the responses stated that they had no knowledge, or means of knowing, that they dealt directly or indirectly with RSF or their procurement agents. Given the use of middlemen this is almost certain to be the case and we do not suggest any wrongdoing on the part of any individuals or companies mentioned in this blog or spreadsheet, unless otherwise discussed.
In two responses companies listed as suppliers in the spreadsheet told Global Witness that the goods were bought by Tradive General Trading. This is further confirmation of the authenticity of the spreadsheet. As discussed further below, our last publication revealed that Tradive is controlled by Algoney Hamdan Daglo, the younger brother of Hemedti, the leader of the RSF.
The RSF spreadsheet describes the purchase and importation of more than 1,000 vehicles during the first half of 2019. The majority of these vehicles were Toyota Hilux and Land Cruiser pick-up trucks, often converted by the RSF into ‘technicals’, 4×4 military vehicles with mounted machine guns on the back. We reviewed over one hundred RSF videos posted on the militia’s official Facebook page, and others posted by Sudanese citizens on social media. We were looking for any corroboration of the authenticity of the document through identifying particular models listed in the spreadsheet.
We found photos and documents which provide snapshots of each stage of the journey from Dubai to Sudan of the same make and model the vehicles named in the spreadsheet. Toyota responded to our request for comment, stating that: “Toyota has a strict policy not to sell vehicles to potential purchasers who may use or modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities, and have procedures in place to prevent their products from being diverted for unauthorised military use.
” They further told Global Witness that Toyota “complies with export control and sanctions laws, and requires dealers and distributors to do the same”. Toyota emphasised that it has clear guidelines not to sell vehicles to military or police organisations in Sudan. Stage 1: The vehicle showrooms of Dubai It is possible to find online the same model of vehicles advertised by the same companies named in the spreadsheet.
For example, one line lists “Purchase 50 Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup car, standard, Beige colour, 2019 model with 2018 paintings”, and the supplier column states that “Al Karama Motors Showroom (50 cars×103000 dirham)”. Sure enough, Al Karama – a vehicle retailer based in Dubai – currently lists identical models of the type bought by the RSF. This is useful circumstantial evidence, which helps support the plausibility of the contents of the RSF spreadsheet.
Russian Telegram source, #Ethiopia is moving Pantsirs, Ural, & Kamaz vehicles to Sudanese border, Ethiopian troops marching to Sudan’s border amid escalating tensions, Tanks & heavy weapons are being seen transported to #Sudan border tension seems turning into full fledged war pic.twitter.com/nSH0SlYLCg
— BASHIR HASHI YUSUF 🇸🇴 (@BashirHashiysf) January 12, 2021