Siege of Kabul, early 1507

The siege of Kabul of early 1507 saw Babur forced to return to his new capital city to overcome a revolt against him and relieve a siege of the Citadel.

At the start of 1506 it had looked as if the surviving members of the Timurid dynasty were about to unite against the threat posed by Shaibani Khan, the great Uzbek conqueror. Sultan Husain Mirza Baiqara of Herat, the ruler of Khurasan, called together all of his own armies and those of his sons, and also asked for help from Babur, by then reasonably firmly established as ruler of Kabul. Babur agreed to join the army, but on 5 May 1506 Sultan Husain Mirza died. He was succeeded by two of his sons, who ruled jointly. By the time Babur joined them late in 1506 it was clear that nothing effective was going to be done. Eventually the army returned to Herat, with Babur as a somewhat unwilling guest.

After a stay of twenty days Babur was beginning to worry about his position in Kabul, and on 24 December 1506 he left Herat. A perilious crossing of the mountains followed, but by late February 1507 Babur had reached safety. He then took a chance to attack the Turkmen Hazaras, a group who preyed on travels across the mountain passes, catching them outside their normal winter quarters.

Babur had been right to worry about Kabul. In 1505, soon after the death of his mother, Babur had received news of the death of his uncle, Sultan Ahmad Mirza Khan from a party that included Muhammad Husain Mirza Dughlat. Now he rebelled against Babur, and attempted to install Wais Khan, the youngest son of Ahmad Mirza's older brother Mahmud, as ruler of Kabul. The troops left in Kabul were told that Babur had been taken prisoner by the two rulers of Herat, something that was not far from the truth.

Unfortunately for the rebels they failed to capture the citadel of Kabul. This was held for Babur by Mulla Baba of Pashaghar, one of his most loyal followers and someone who had been with Babur since his defeat at Sar-i-Pul in 1501. This gave Babur the time to return to Kabul, and to co-ordinate a plan with the defenders of the citadel.

Babur's plan was a simple one. When his troops passed a hill named Minar on the approaches to Kabul they would light a signal fire. If the defenders of the citadel had received his messages then they were to light a fire in the treasury. They were then to wait for Babur's attack to begin, and at that point attack the rebels from the rear.

Things didn't work out exactly as Babur had hoped. His men became involved in a confused fight in the streets of Kabul, while the defenders of the citadel were unable to make much of a contribution, although one nearly killed Babur in the confusion! Despite this the rebels were soon defeated. Muhammad Husain Mirza fled but was soon caught, while Sultan Sanjar Barlas, another senior rebel, was captured during the fighting. As was so often the case Babur was generous to his defeated enemies, allowing even Wais Khan to leave. In this case Babur was not to suffer from his generosity, for both Wais Khan and Muhammad Husain were soon killed by the Uzbek leader Shaibani.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 April 2010), Siege of Kabul, early 1507 ,

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