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Mohammad Akbar Khan (1813–1845) was an Afghanmarker Prince, general and tribal leader. He was active in the First Anglo-Afghan War, which lasted from 1839 to 1842. He is prominent for his leadership of the national party in Kabul from 1841 to 1842, and his pursuit of the retreating British army from Kabul to Gandamak near Jalalabadmarker in 1842. He is also known for killing legendary Sikh leader Hari Singh Nalwa in the Battle of Jamrud whilst trying to get back the city of Peshawarmarker for the Afghans from the invading Sikh army.

Akbar was the son of Amir Dost Mohammed Khan, and he led a revolt in Kabul against the Britishmarker mission of William McNaughten, Alexander 'Sekundar' Burnes and their garrison of 4,500 men. In November 1841, he besieged Major-General William Elphinstone's force in Kabul. Elphinstone accepted a safe-conduct for his force and about 12,000 associated refugees to flee to India; they were ambushed and massacred. It was claimed in at least one set of British war memoirs that, during the retreat, Akbar Khan could be heard alternately commanding his men, in Persian to desist from, and in Pushtu to continue, firing.

Historians think it unlikely that Akbar Khan wished for the total annihilation of the British force. An astute man politically, he would have been aware that allowing the British to extricate themselves from Afghanistan would give him the time to consolidate his control of the diverse hill tribes; whereas a massacre of 14,000 people, of which only about a quarter were a fighting force, would not be tolerated back in London and would result in another, larger army sent to exact retribution. This was in fact what happened the following year.

Many believe that Akbar Khan was poisoned by his father, Dost Mohammed, who feared his ambitions.

In fiction

The historical figure of Akbar Khan plays a major role in George MacDonald Fraser's novel Flashman.

References


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