Former Iraqi al-Qaeda Leader Reveals Divisions in Resistance

Andrew McGregor

April 30, 2008

In a 50-minute interview with a Dubai-based television station, a former leader in Iraq’s al-Qaeda movement described the disillusionment with the militant group that led him to abandon it and join an anti-al-Qaeda Awakening Council (al-Arabiya TV, April 19). Al-Mulla Nazim al-Juburi was a senior member of the Islamic Army, a member of the five-man Mujahideen Shura Council, the leader of the Ghuraba Brigades and a close associate of Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

ZarqawiAbu Musab al-Zarqawi

Al-Juburi has returned to his hometown of al-Duluiyah, once an al-Qaeda stronghold, after serving a period of imprisonment. As the imam of the Duluiyah mosque, al-Juburi joined the Salafist Islamic Army after the U.S. invasion of 2003. He was eventually arrested and sent for a five-month term in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, where he met many imprisoned al-Qaeda members.

Many of al-Juburi’s most interesting statements concerned the deadly rivalry between Iraqi and non-Iraqi Arab leaders of al-Qaeda. Al-Juburi claims that many Iraqi jihad leaders were murdered because of their refusal to permit non-Iraqis to lead the resistance. Eventually many of these non-Iraqi leaders and outside groups like al-Qaeda came under suspicion from Iraqis like al-Juburi: “After meeting with these groups outside Iraq, we reached the conclusion that they maintained suspicious ties with foreign intelligence services, which provided logistic support and helped fighters infiltrate into Iraq and carry out bombing operations against Sunnis and civilians.” According to al-Juburi, interference from foreign intelligence agencies has “destroyed the jihadist project in Iraq, harmed the Sunnis and dwarfed the mission of many jihadist groups in Iraq.”

After disagreements over extremism with al-Qaeda’s foreign leaders, al-Juburi says: “I quit al-Qaeda and declared war on its extremist line, which shed blood, humiliated people, usurped people’s rights, violated human values, and blocked Islamic law from protecting religion, property, and lives.” Al-Juburi cited attempts by foreign leaders to take control of Sunni cities, the massacres of Shiites and sadistic acts such as killing people with electric saws as reasons why al-Qaeda would never gain a popular following in Iraq. Al-Qaeda’s application of takfir (declaring certain other Muslims to be apostates) to anyone who disagreed with their operational or ideological line also drove many leading jihadis from the movement. Al-Juburi suggests the main problem for the Sunni resistance in Iraq is division: “Each 10 Sunnis establish an army and speak in the name of the Sunnis.”

In the interview, al-Juburi claimed that the elusive al-Zarqawi was betrayed to the Americans by a close aide before his safe-house was destroyed in a U.S. bombing in June 2006. There were no kind words for the current leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Egyptian native Abu Hamza al-Muhajir (a.k.a. Abu Ayyub al-Masri), especially when compared to al-Zarqawi: “Al-Qaeda was in its best condition when al-Zarqawi was in charge because he was committed to jihad, which is one of the constant principles of the Sunnis in particular and Muslims in general… [al-Zarqawi] was an attractive man, capable of recruiting young men in and outside Iraq, and more acceptable to Sunnis than Abu-Hamza.”

This article first appeared in the April 30, 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus


Slaughter in Mogadishu Mosque Inflames Somali Conflict

Andrew McGregor

April 30, 2008

A new wave of heavy fighting broke out in Mogadishu on April 19 that lasted for over 48 hours and left more than 80 dead. More residents continue to pour out of the city past Ethiopian tanks awaiting further attacks from the Islamists (al-Jazeera, April 21).

Ethiopian TankEthiopian Tank Rolls through Mogadishu

Numerous eyewitness reports claim that Ethiopian troops entered the al-Hidaya mosque in Mogadishu, where they killed 11 Somali civilians, including a number of preachers and the imam of the mosque, Shaykh Said Yahya. A further 10 civilians were killed outside the mosque. The preachers were members of the Tablighi Jamaat, a normally non-political Islamic missionary order that originated in India and has spread to East Africa, among other places. The Tablighis are not known to have played any part in the Islamist insurgency in Mogadishu. One of the surviving preachers, Shaykh Muhammad, claimed: “We believe the reason behind the attack was a fight against Islam, and to completely destroy areas where it is active, and make it stagnant” (Radio Shabelle, April 24).

In Washington on an official visit at the time, Somalia’s interim President Abdullahi Yusuf described Ethiopian clashes with “terrorist groups named al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda,” but claimed “there is no incident where soldiers entered a mosque and slaughtered the people inside” (Garowe Online, April 25). A spokesman for the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry stated that the account of Ethiopian troops killing civilians at the mosque was “a completely fabricated story designed to blackmail the Ethiopian army, one of the most disciplined forces anywhere in the world” (Guardian, April 25).

The throats of seven of the victims were slit, which Amnesty International described as “a form of extra-judicial execution practiced by Ethiopian forces in Somalia” (AI Press Release, April 23). A later statement from the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry eventually acknowledged the killings had taken place, but pinned the blame on the Islamist Shabaab militia: “The cutting of the throats of even enemies and mutilating bodies is not in the tradition of Ethiopian troops. On the other hand, the al-Shabaab [Islamist] terrorists have never been ashamed of these types of atrocities” (AFP, April 25). A December 2007 statement from Mogadishu’s dominant Hawiye clan deplored a number of “grave violations of human rights” committed by Ethiopian occupation troops, including “throat slitting” (Appeal by Hawiye Council in London, December 12, 2007).

Forty-one Quranic students in the mosque ranging in age from nine to 18 were taken away by Ethiopian troops and eventually transferred to the local police, where they were being investigated for terrorist activities (Shabelle Media Network, April 26); 37 of the students were released on April 24.

The massacre at al-Hidaya mosque has thrown the peace talks scheduled to begin in Djibouti on May 10 into doubt. A number of opposition leaders already in Djibouti, including Shaykh Sharif Shaykh Ahmed, are reported to have left Djibouti after receiving reports of the mosque incident.


This article first appeared in the April 30, 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus

“Of Three Score Wild Scottish Men”: The Battle of the Clans, 1396

Andrew McGregor

Military Heritage, April, 2008

“A selcouth thing” (an amazing thing) was what one witness called it. The Battle of the Clans (also known as the Battle of the North Inch) was a duel between two sides of thirty highland warriors in which quarter was neither given nor asked. Intended to resolve a raging feud that threatened Scotland’s stability in 1396, the contest was a shocking spectacle, notable even in an age that concealed its brutality behind a veil of chivalry. Taking place in a makeshift arena before the King, his court, foreign dignitaries and hundreds of spectators, the Battle of the Clans was a reversion to the gladiatorial games of pagan Rome. This trial by combat was also a reflection of the tensions between the culture of the Lowland Scots and their Anglo-Norman rulers and the tribalism of the Celtic Highlanders. Those tensions would remain unresolved until the final clash of cultures on the field of Culloden in 1745.

(c) Perth & Kinross Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation(Perth Museum and Art Gallery)

For the historian the Battle at the North Inch of Perth presents a number of challenges, relying as it does on a pair of accounts by chroniclers who may or may not have been witnesses, later Latin manuscript histories, oral traditions and a handful of questionable but fascinating artifacts. The traditions have been inexorably coloured by later embellishments and the inventions of novelist Sir Walter Scott, who used the traditions as the basis of a novel in the 19th century. While oral traditions have displayed remarkably accuracy in some parts of the world, they are often malleable in regions where they form the basis of rival land claims, questions of precedence or tribal pride. The highland region of Scotland filled all these criteria in the pre-modern era. The absence of such a notable event from most official records suggests that the entire exercise was regarded by the authorities as a somewhat shameful failure, best not to be mentioned again.

The Dispute

The fourteenth century Scottish highland region was still an isolated and undeveloped district of great forests, deep cold lakes and rocky peaks uncrossed by any road. Towns were few, with most of the population scattered through the glens (valleys), where they pursued a pastoral life, occasionally enlivened by raids against their neighbours and disputes over land. What went on in the highlands was still largely a mystery to the outside world, including Scotland’s king, Robert III Stewart.

The combat at Perth was likely the result of a feud that erupted around 1333 between Clan Cameron and Clan Chattan, two powerful highland confederacies. Most major disputes in the highlands were over land, and this one was no different, involving a claim for restoration of MacIntosh (or MacKintosh) lands in Lochaber temporarily held by the Camerons. The MacIntosh chief, leader of the Clan Chattan confederacy, attacked and defeated the Camerons at Drumlui, and the feud was on. As the fighting took its toll, each confederation began to call on its complex network of allies for armed support, threatening to plunge the entire highland region into a cauldron of unstoppable violence.

The fight at Drumlui was followed by the Battle of Invernahavon, which took place in either 1370 or 1386. This fierce struggle pitted the MacPhersons, Davidsons and MacIntoshes (the main elements of Clan Chattan) against some four hundred warriors of the Clan Cameron, returning home from a raid on Clan Chattan lands in Badenoch. A dispute broke out on the battlefield between the MacPhersons and the Davidsons as to which group would take the prestigious position on the right of the battle-line (a familiar dispute amongst the proud highlanders, arising even centuries later as the clans took to the battlefield at Culloden). The MacIntosh chief settled the dispute in favour of the Davidsons (the MacIntosh had taken control of the Clan Chattan chieftainship from the older Davidson chiefs by marriage in 1291).

Typically, there are two accounts of what happened next. In the first, the MacPherson chief was offended by the decision and withdrew with his men, but on seeing the Davidsons and MacIntoshes being overwhelmed by their Cameron opponents, the MacPherson chief joined the battle in a fury, turning the tide and slaying the Cameron chief, Charles MacGiloney. The other version states that the Davidsons and MacIntoshes were soundly defeated after the MacPhersons withdrew. According to this account, the following night the MacIntosh chief sent his bard to the MacPherson camp disguised as a Cameron. The bard (whose personal safety was traditionally inviolable) accused the MacPhersons of cowardice for failing to show in the battle, resulting in the outraged MacPherson chief leading his men in a savage attack on the Camerons the next morning.

Another important incident leading up to the duel of clans at Perth was the battle at Glasclune in Perthshire in 1392. Fighting had always been common along the highland/lowland border, but the lowland nobles had full confidence that the tactics and chivalry of the lowland knights and their men-at-arms would always prevail against the wild and poorly organized raiders that occasionally poured out of the highlands. At Glasclune, however, the lowland knights were badly defeated by a group of highlanders. The Sheriff of Angus, Sir Walter Ogilvy, was killed, along with many of his relatives and men. Disaster was averted only through the efforts of Sir David Lindsay of Glen Esk, a distinguished knight who was wounded in the fighting. With this clash, the highlanders had passed from traditional nuisance to serious threat to the established order. Indeed, there was growing criticism of the king’s failure to maintain law and order in the kingdom. Many of the worst depredations in the region were actually the work of King Robert’s younger brother Alexander Stewart, the infamous “Wolf of Badenoch.” According to a 14th century Latin document, the Registrum Episcopatus Moraviensis;

In those days there was no law in Scotland, but the strong opposed the weak and the whole kingdom was one den of thieves. Homicides, robberies, fire-raisings and other misdeeds remained unpunished, and justice seemed banished beyond the king’s bounds.

By late September 1396, the decision had been made at court to solve the dangerous clan dispute by means of judicial combat, to take place at the North Inch of Perth under the supervision of the King of Scotland, Robert III (Stewart). The “North Inch” was an area of low-lying land beside the River Tay, just outside the town walls and home to a monastery of Dominican priests known as “The Black Friars.” The choice of Perth for this unusual mass duel was likely due to the favour shown the town by the king as a residence. At this time, as in many mediaeval societies, the Scottish king and court had no permanent home, preferring instead to pass from place to place, allowing the king to “show the flag” when and where convenient or necessary. Robert III enjoyed his stays at the Black Friars’ monastery at Perth best, and the marshy ground of the North Inch was a natural choice for the contest, having already been used for a number of individual trials-by-combat.

The Precedents

The contemporary chronicler Bower claimed the affair was the work of Sir David Lindsay of Glen Esk (who had prevented a rout at Glasclune) and Thomas Dunbar, Earl of Moray. These nobles no doubt intended to take a bold action designed to demonstrate the assertion of the King’s law in the highlands to those lowland nobles who had protested the king’s inability to establish law and order. Their sovereign, Robert III, was a weak ruler who became even more ineffective after a kick from a horse left him lame at roughly 50 years of age.

Some writers have suggested that the classically educated nobles advising the king may have looked to the precedent of the fight between the Horatii and Curiatii recounted in Livy. This 7th century BC match was between two sets of triplets, the Horatii of Rome and the Curiatii representing Alba Longa, to decide the outcome of a war between the two nations. For Lindsay of Glen Esk, it may have been an opportunity to take a subtle revenge on the warriors of “Clan Qwhele” (possibly an early term for Clan Chattan) who had bested the lowland knights at Glasclune. The idea of a contest may have had special appeal to Lindsay, a frequent participant in cross-border jousting tournaments. David Lindsay was one of the most successful knights of his age, matching superior fighting skills with a quick but eloquent tongue. In 1390 Lindsay accepted a challenge from Richard II’s ambassador to Scotland, John Lord Welles. In a famous contest carried out in front of Richard and his court on London Bridge, Lindsay absorbed his opponent’s best blow on the first pass without being knocked off his horse. With the crowd screaming that the Scotsman was cheating by being tied to his horse, Lindsay rode up before the king, jumped off his horse in his heavy armour and then remounted without any assistance or use of the stirrup (as recounted in the Scottish account of Prior Wyntoun). Two passes later Lindsay dismounted and the two fought with daggers until Welles lay at the Scottish knight’s mercy. Lindsay married a daughter of Scotland’s King Robert II and became one of the most powerful men in Scotland in 1398 when he became the Earl of Crawford.

As a judicial contest, the number of warriors involved, thirty to each side, may have been based on a part of old Scots Law, which required 30 “compurgators” (witnesses to the innocence of a person) to clear an accused. There was also a precedent in the 1355 “Battle of the Thirty.” This combat arose after Richard Bembrough, an English knight commanding a garrison in Brittany (the Celtic north-west region of modern France), ravaged the countryside in revenge for the death of a fellow knight. His massacres of innocent civilians (including the craftsmen and laborers so vital to the economy) brought a reproach from a Breton knight, the Sire de Beaumanoir. Bembrough answered with insults, which brought a challenge from the Breton to meet him for a combat of thirty men to each side. Many residents of the region witnessed the affair, but the accounts of what actually happened are tainted by ethnic chauvinism and the propensity of the chroniclers to emphasize the chivalry of their own side and the treachery of the other. One account claims that the English knights were destroyed to a man, while others suggest that as few as 4 to 5 men of either side were killed.

In the reign of Scotland’s David II twenty Scottish knights fought twenty English knights in a contest at Berwick in 1338. The combat appears to have been a test of strength more than a battle to the death, with only one Scottish and two English knights killed. In 1340 Edward III of England challenged King Philippe de Valois of France to join him in battle with 100 picked men on each side. Edward had once given his allegiance to the French king as part of a deal involving a transfer of lands to the English king, and Philippe now took the opportunity to rudely remind Edward that a King could not meet with a vassal in such a way. When his fortunes in the war with England began to wane, Philippe attempted to accept the challenge, which was this time declined by Edward.

The Witness

The chronicler Andrew Wyntoun was Prior of the St. Serf monastery at nearby Loch Leven, and is believed to have walked the twenty miles to the battle-ground at Perth, though it is also possible that all his information on the affair was gained through hearsay. The monk did not bother to record his memories until sometime between 1420 and 1424. Unfortunately, Wyntoun gives us little of the political or historical background of the affair, and his versions of the names involved reflect the difficulty or indifference with which “barbarous” Celtic names were rendered into English or Latin by lowland scholars at the time.

From Wyntoun, then, we get our earliest account of the “three score wyld Scottis men,” on two sides of thirty each, in pursuit of an old feud. He names the two clans involved as Clan “Owhewyl” and Clan “Ha,” and identifies two chieftains who took part, “Scha Ferqwharis” and “Cristy Johnesone.”

The Clan Qwhewyl (or Owhele) almost certainly represents the Clan Chattan, a confederation of related families (MacPhersons, Davidsons, and MacIntoshes) and a number of smaller unrelated septs or subgroups (notably the MacGillivrays and MacBeans) which found strength through association with a larger group. The number of these septs of Clan Chattan would increase greatly in the 15th century. The identity of the other feuding clan, the Clan Ha (or Kay in some accounts) is more contentious, but a majority opinion seems to have finally settled on Clan Cameron’s claims to have been the warring party. The seemingly obvious solution that it was Clan MacKay has been disproved on historical and philological grounds. The fact that the lands of Clan Chattan and Clan MacKay were significantly distant from one another also argues against the existence of any enduring conflict.

The Camerons were also a confederation of clans, incorporating MacMartins, MacGillonies and MacSorlies, though unlike Clan Chattan, the members of this confederacy mostly gathered under a single name, Cameron. They were prominent in the Lochaber area, one of the territories known to have been in dispute between Clan Chattan and the Camerons at the time.

The Battle

Barriers were constructed around three sides of the intended battleground, the River Tay forming the fourth side. Viewing stands were erected for the King, his court, and noble visitors, some of whom came all the way from France for the spectacle. There was no doubt a large turnout from Perth, and hundreds of spectators and vendors must have flocked in from the hinterland to take in this once-in-a-lifetime event. The funds for erecting the grandstands were taken from the King’s customs account at Perth. The exchequer rolls record the expenditure of £ 14:2:11 “for timber, iron and making of lists (enclosures) for 60 persons fighting in the Inch of Perth”.

When the warriors were mustered on the field after attending mass it was discovered that Clan Chattan was one man short. Some sources suggest that the man’s nerve broke at the last minute and he swam across the Tay to safety, but these sources seem to have confused the warrior’s absence with the escape made by one of the fighters late in the battle. The missing highlander is variously described as having missed the fight as the result of a hangover or an over-long dalliance with one of the young ladies of Perth. With none of the fighters on the opposing side willing to relinquish their role in order to even up the sides, the combat was suddenly in danger of being abandoned. Traditions record that a local smith with no interest in the fight suddenly stepped up and volunteered to join the combat in place of the missing warrior, in return for an immediate sum of money and a guarantee he would be maintained for life in the unlikely event of his survival. The bandy-legged smith was described as “small in stature, but fierce.”

Bower’s version of the affair, written about 25 years after Wyntoun’s original account, represents the first mention of the absence of one of the fighters and his replacement by the Perth smith, Henry Wynd, “a man of moderate height but savage appearance.” The account of the smith’s role in the battle, though colourful, is still questionable since it does not appear in Wyntoun’s earlier account. If Wyntoun was, as believed, an eyewitness to the combat, it seems difficult to believe he could have forgotten or neglected to mention the participation of the bandy-legged smith who was, as will be seen, a central character in later accounts of the drama. Like Wyntoun, we cannot be sure if Bower was an eyewitness. Distance from the event suggests he was not, but if he was, he was writing as an old man of events some fifty years in the past. Like so many aspects of this strange story, the participation of the smith may have been real, or may have been added by the later chronicler to give some interest to what may have in reality been a very dark and un-inspirational day beside the River Tay.

With the fight on once more the fighters, following highland tradition, would have stripped to their saffron-coloured undershirts, tying the long garment between their legs before going into battle. Chain mail was the usual costume of professional warriors in the Highlands at this time, but protection of the combatants did not figure into the scheme of the contest’s organizers. Before highlanders met in battle it was customary for a bard from each side to recite a poem intended to incite the warriors and remind them of their duty to their clan. Following this the warriors would have hurled insults and brandished their weapons while awaiting the sound of the trumpet that would launch the fray.

Though fictional, Sir Walter Scott’s account of the battle (in his novel The Fair Maid of Perth) succeeds in capturing some of the noise and fury that must have surrounded this unusual clash:

The trumpets of the king sounded a charge, the bagpipes blew up their screaming and maddening notes, and the combatants, starting forward in regular order, and increasing their pace till they came to a smart run, met together in the centre of the ground, as a furious torrent encounters an advancing tide. For an instant or two the front lines, hewing at each other with their long swords, seemed engaged in a succession of single combats; but the second and third ranks soon came up on either side, actuated alike by the eagerness of hatred and the thirst of honour, pressed through the intervals, and rendered the scene a tumultuous chaos, over which the huge swords rose and sunk, some still glittering, others streaming with blood, appearing, from the wild rapidity with which they were swayed, rather to be put in motion by some complicated machinery, than to be wielded by human hands.

We are told that the fighters could carry only bow, axe, knife and sword, and that armour and shields were prohibited. The bows would have been used first, with probably only a small number of arrows allowed on each side before the warriors closed in. One account holds that the bows were actually crossbows, and that only three arrows were allotted to each. In an enclosure at short distance any shot, whether from bow or crossbow, would likely have been lethal in the hands of experienced bowmen. Despite some later accounts that mention its use in the fight, the two-handed claymore or “great sword” was not introduced to the highlands until the 15th century. The small ground chosen for the combat would have left little opportunity to employ any type of tactics, and the warriors likely paired off in single combat at first, in the highland tradition. As men fell on each side, some fighters may have found themselves faced with two or three opponents. In this case death was almost certain, especially as the fighters were without protection. The struggle must have been ferocious at times; according to Bower’s account, it was “like butchers killing cattle in a slaughter-house.”

From time to time it would have been necessary for the combatants to break off and rest from their exertions, and to attempt to staunch the flow of blood from the worst of their wounds. The fight would resume on fresh ground, unencumbered by the mutilated bodies of their dying comrades. A story from the folklore of the MacPherson clan (and repeated by Scott in The Fair Maid of Perth) describes the pipers of the respective clans becoming enraged by the slaughter, dropping their pipes to go at each other with knives. Having slain his opponent, the mortally wounded Clan Chattan piper is said to have picked up his pipes to play the clan anthem with his dying breath. The clash of pipers appears, unfortunately, to be yet another late addition to the saga, making its first appearance on paper in the early 19th century. The oral tradition may be much older, but almost certainly does not go back before the 17th century.

After several hours of bloodletting, there remained only one man opposing Clan Chattan, alone against eleven heavily wounded representatives of the Clan of the Cat. Rightly judging his chance of survival as nil, the warrior tossed his sword away and struck out across the River Tay. If he indeed survived the swim (and he must have been badly wounded himself), the warrior was never heard from again, though Scott recorded a folk-tale in which the man was so poorly received on his return to his kin in the highlands that he killed himself. One might compare his fate to that of Henry de Essex, standard-bearer of Henry II of England. Left for dead after losing a trial by combat he was saved by nearby monks and taken to their abbey where he remained for the rest of his life. As Millingen points out in his History of Duelling, Henry de Essex was considered morally dead, and his return to the living world beyond the cloisters was inconceivable.

The smith of Perth was another matter, however. Having played a decisive role in the fight on the side of Clan Chattan, the smith was afterwards asked if he even understood for what he had fought so relentlessly. The smith was said to have replied that he had “fought for his own hand,” a phrase that passed into Scottish lore. Clan Chattan appears to have honoured its promise to the smith, who is said to have left for the North with his fellow survivors, settling in Strahavon. His descendants became known as Sliochd an Gobh Cruim (“the race of the crooked smith,” referring to his bandy-legs), and may still be found in the area as a sept of Clan Chattan, bearing the names of Smith or its Gaelic equivalent, Gow.

A highland account of the battle written in 1461 gives a number of different details. Buchanan’s Book of Pluscarden records that seven men survived the contest, five on one side and two on the other. Of these two, one managed to cross the River Tay, while the other was either pardoned or hung. The smith is said to have been related to the winning clan (differing here from virtually every other account), though Buchanan does not mention the clans by name. Wyntoun (our first “eye-witness,” if he was so) did not state who won the contest or how many were killed, so our earliest information about the results in terms of casualties comes from Bower’s account, written over 50 years after the event.

The Leaders

A gravestone at a church in Rothiemurchus in Badenoch was for many years believed to mark the resting place of the leader of the Clan Chattan fighters at the North Inch, a certain Shaw Corshiacloch (“the buck-toothed”), or Shaw Mór (“the great”), probably to be identified with the “Scha Ferqwharis sone” (Shaw Farquharson) mentioned by Wyntoun. In the 19th century, Alexander MacKintosh Shaw collected an oral tradition from his great-grand aunt, regarded as a great repository of highland tradition:

Lachlan, chief of MacKintosh and of the Clan Chattan, being too old and infirm to take the field in person, deputed his kinsman, Shaw “Mor,” a warrior of tried valour and established renown, to fill his place in the combat at Perth; and as a reward for the victory which he obtained, Shaw was presented by the chief with the lands of Rothimurcus in Badenoch.


Battle of the Clans IIGrave (foreground) of Shaw “the buck-toothed” at the Doune of Rothiemurchus (Photo by Ewan MacPherson, Clan Macpherson Museum Archives)

This Shaw Mór is said to have been the great-grandson of Angus, the 6th chief of MacIntosh, and became progenitor of the Shaw house of Tordarroch (not to be confused with the lowland Shaws). Though he was already known as a fine fighter, Shaw Mór’s reputation was made by his leadership role at the Battle of the Clans, a contest the actual chiefs of the clans had no personal interest in joining. Burton remarked on this absence in his History of Scotland:

So little eminence… appears to have been among them [the fighters], that even the men who are said to have been the heads of the quarrel on either side are not identified by Celtic antiquaries with anything like certainty as belonging to eminent or even known Highland families. They cannot be fitted into any of the genealogies, accurate or fabulous, to be found in the peerages and family histories, nor has anyone been able to show the districts over which they ruled.

The participation of Clan Chattan in the duel is undisputed, but there has been considerable controversy over their opponents. Many have suggested that the battle was actually between two branches of Clan Chattan vying for prominence. Traditions held by the MacPhersons and the Davidsons (both Clan Chattan) insist that the Camerons had no part in the contest. Arguing against this claim is the fact that in the late 14th century, the constituent families of Clan Chattan were neither large nor powerful on their own, and a feud between two individual groups within the confederation would hardly have been of enough seriousness as to threaten the stability of the whole nation, the given reason for the duel. The combative Clan Cameron confederation and their long-standing quarrel with Clan Chattan makes them a much more likely opponent in the contest at Perth. There is also some evidence that Clan Cameron had not yet adopted that name in the 14th century, so they may well have been known as Clan ‘Ha’ at the time. It is nearly impossible to say with certainty exactly who were the opponents at the North Inch, but a group of warriors from the leading clans of the Chattan confederacy versus a group of Clan Cameron warriors seems most likely, but far from definite, with strong MacPherson traditions in need of account. Clan Davidson maintains that it formed one of the two sides in what it interprets as a battle for the Clan Chattan leadership, and in 1996 held a celebration in Perth of the 600th anniversary of the Battle of the North Inch, the clan piper playing a new piece commissioned for the occasion.

Shaw’s opponent in the battle, the Cameron leader Cristy Johnesone (as named by Wyntoun), does not appear to have survived the battle. This may be the same individual as the Gilchrist MacIan (MacIan being Gaelic for “son of John,” or “Johnsone”) mentioned in a manuscript history of the MacIntoshes as a leader of the chiefly house of Clan Chattan at the time.

The Aftermath

The mass duel at Perth had little political legacy. Though the Scottish court may have been relieved to remove so many troublesome warriors from the scene in one day, both highland confederacies were large enough to withstand the loss. Neither side would have taken the result of the combat at Perth as a decision against them in their feud. The Norman rules of law that lay behind this judicial contest of arms were unknown in the highlands. There the code of blood revenge would have dictated further rounds of bloodletting in return for the deeds of that September afternoon. If the clans involved were indeed the Chattan and the Camerons, it is known that they were at each other’s throats once again early in the 15th century. There are records of a particularly ruthless attack on Palm Sunday, 1429, in which the Clan Chattan set fire to a church where a sept of Clan Cameron was gathered, killing most of those gathered within. The contenders for leadership of the Clan Chattan were not above fighting each other, as at the Battle of Glenlivet in 1594. The leadership dispute was eventually settled in court near the end of the 17th century, legal proceedings having replaced “battles to the death” by this time. The fact that the contest at Perth was largely ignored by official records after its conclusion and was never repeated would seem to confirm the ineffectiveness of this form of trial by combat as a means of dispute resolution amongst the highlanders.

The idea of a mass duel to resolve an otherwise intractable clan feud was tried once again in the mid-15th century, again with unsatisfactory results. In this case the opponents were the Gunn and Keith clans, seeking to bring some resolution to a feud that had claimed so many lives there were barely enough men left to grow food. The Gunns were descended from Norsemen who had once ruled northern Scotland. For centuries, the Gunns had seen their power and lands rolled back as the Celtic Scots grew stronger. In this way the Celtic Keiths emerged as the Gunns’ main rival in the remote north-eastern territory of Caithness. The chiefs of both clans agreed to meet at the Chapel of St. Tears near Ackergill with a dozen horsemen each. The Gunns and their chief arrived first, using the opportunity to pray before battle. The Keiths arrived later with two men to a horse, giving them an enormous advantage. The Keiths fell on the outnumbered Gunns inside the chapel, eventually slaying each of their opponents despite a fierce resistance by the Gunns that claimed many Keith lives. 150 years later the blood of the victims reportedly still stained the walls of the building. The unequal contest solved nothing and the two clans were soon at each other’s throats once again. Years later the grandson of the Gunn chief ambushed the son of the treacherous Keith chief who led the attack and a dozen of his men, massacring the whole group in revenge for the slaughter at St. Tears. Ill feelings between the clans persisted until 1978, when a treaty of friendship was signed at the site of the now vanished chapel.

Legends and Relics

The Edinburgh novelist, Sir Walter Scott, dipped heavily into Scottish history and folklore for his stories, and the battle at North Inch did not escape his attention. Scott incorporated the story of the fight into his novel The Fair Maid of Perth (1828), focusing on the story of the Perth native Henry Smith (or Henry of the Wynd). The building Scott described as the home of Catherine Glover, the ‘Fair Maid’ of the novel, can still be seen in Perth. Though the building is the oldest house in Perth, it probably does not date earlier than the 15th century. The building was once the headquarters of the glovers’ trade in the densely populated mediaeval industrial suburb of Perth North Port. The area fell into decay and gained an unsavoury reputation until most structures were demolished in the 1930s.

Scott’s account of the battle at North Inch features a remarkable display of devotion as the foster father and eight foster brothers of Eachin (‘Hector’, the son of the Clan Qwhele chief) sacrifice themselves to save the young man from the attacks of the Chattan warriors. As each falls in turn another foster-brother replaces the last with the cry “Another for Hector!” Scott’s model for this part of the narrative comes not from the ancient chroniclers but from an incident recorded in the 1651 British Civil War battle of Inverkeithing involving Sir Hector MacLean, (Eachann Ruadh – ‘Red Hector’), 18th Chief of the Clan MacLean. Three battalions of lowland troops and 1500 MacLean and Buchanan clansmen who had rallied to the Royalist banner were abandoned at Inverkeithing by the Royalist horse in the face of Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarian force, at least twice their number. The lowland infantry on the highlanders’ right broke under the weight of repeated charges by the enemy, who controlled the high ground. Sir Hector refused to retreat under a Parliamentarian bombardment, though his men grew increasingly agitated, being unused to standing fast under artillery fire. Seeing this, Red Hector finally ordered his highlanders to charge their tormenters uphill, the only alternative to retreat. Quickly beset on all sides by the enemy, the highlanders formed a rough square around Red Hector. For four hours repeated attacks by Cromwell’s veterans resulted in enormous losses to both sides. Red Hector continued to rally his men despite many wounds, and the Parliamentarian troops eventually began to focus on killing or capturing him. One after another of Hector’s loyal clansmen hurled themselves at the advancing enemy to protect their chief, each screaming in Gaelic, “Far eil air son Eachann!” (Another for Hector!). Eight men died in this fashion before a bullet to Hector’s chest ended the struggle. Only 40 of Red Hector’s 800 MacLeans survived the slaughter, nearly all of them badly wounded.

Scott’s version of the North Inch battle was never intended to be an historical account. The author always preferred vague and often disputed historical traditions as the basis of his stories, as he then felt relieved of any pressure to abandon the novelist’s craft in favour of the historian’s rigour.

In 1745 the Battle of Culloden brought an end to the Jacobite rebellion and dreams of a Stewart restoration in Britain. The Highland charge, which had triumphed so many times against English arms in the past, proved unequal that day to the disciplined fire and bayonet drill of the Duke of Cumberland’s army (which included English regulars, lowland Scottish troops and anti-Jacobite highlanders). Leading the Jacobite charge were the MacIntoshes of Clan Chattan, who left nearly their entire fighting strength in the mass graves of the battlefield. The Camerons were right behind them, their shot and bayonet-mangled bodies left intermingled with those of their ancient rivals. After the tragic finale to the “Rising of ’45,” the North Inch of Perth became home to a camp of Hessian troops, part of a 5,000 man force brought from Germany by the Hanover King of England to help subdue the highlanders. The monastery of the Black Friars that once dominated the battleground was already a distant memory, having been destroyed by a mob in the Reformation of 1559 after a particularly incendiary sermon by reformer John Knox.

After Culloden an order was issued to seize all arms in the highlands, where Jacobite support had been strongest. Two of the weapons confiscated were swords from the North Inch battle held at the home of the MacIntosh chief. An appeal to the Duke of Cumberland brought a rare display of magnanimity and the relics were returned. Another trophy from the slaughter in Perth is the Feadan Dubh, the “Black Chanter” from the pipes carried by the Clan Chattan piper who killed his counterpart before expiring from his own wounds. The Chanter’s maintenance is regarded as essential for the prosperity of the MacPherson division of Clan Chattan, though this did not prevent it from being auctioned off by court order along with all the goods of Cluny Castle (home of the MacPherson chiefs) in 1943. Fortunately it was purchased by the clan association, and placed in the MacPherson clan museum at Newtonmore, where it may be viewed today.

Despite the reverence given this relic, the first recorded mention of the chanter (which is cracked along its length) dates from 1821, when the object was returned to the MacPherson Chief after having been apparently loaned to the Grants of Glenmoriston. According to an account of 1831 the chanter was borrowed at some prior and unrecorded date by the Grants after a large group of their warriors were defeated by three MacDonalds making free with their cattle. The chanter was known to restore courage to those who heard its song, and the MacPherson chief appears to have loaned this valuable relic to the Grants with the slighting comment that the MacPherson men had no need of such an object. The correspondence regarding its return suggests that the chanter already enjoyed a reputation for great antiquity in 1821. Sir Walter Scott, who knew the young MacPherson chief who regained the relic, mentions the chanter in his Fair Maid of Perth. In one of a number of oral traditions concerning the chanter an ethereal piper appeared over the Clan Chattan during the battle at North Inch. After encouraging the fighting wildcats of Clan Chattan with several frenzied tunes the apparition dropped the pipes to the ground. The instrument, being made almost entirely of glass, shattered completely, except for the wooden chanter. The chanter preserved in the MacPherson museum is made of lignum vitae, a wood available only in the West Indies and South America. This tropical wood was unavailable in 1396 Scotland, and the chanter is therefore of later manufacture, certainly no earlier than the 16th century. Other traditions claim that the chanter’s great powers were the result of blessings by St. Columba or St. Ciaran, giving the object an improbably early 6th century origin.


The unlikelihood of the savage struggle at Perth providing an end to a Highland feud must have been known to the royal court, and it has been suggested by some that the contest was never really intended to be more than a courtly diversion, a royal entertainment for visiting dignitaries from France and England. The prohibition on armour and shields suggests that the death of the participants was a desired result, perhaps in the hope that some steam might be taken out of the feud through the death of many leading warriors. That the clan chiefs and most of their leading men appear to have avoided the battle suggests that they fully understood this intention. The smoldering enmity that persisted between the Camerons and Clan Chattan well into the 19th century demonstrates that Scotland’s lowland nobility had once again failed to penetrate the psyche of their turbulent Gaelic neighbours.

Boardman, Stephen I: The Early Stewart Kings: Robert II and Robert III, 1371-1406, Tuckwell Press, East Linton, East Lothian, Scotland, 1996

Bower, Walter: Scotichronicon, Volumes 8 & 9, Abderdeen University Press, 1987

Buchanan, Maurice (Felix JH Skene, ed.): The Book of Pluscarden (c. 1461), Vol. II, William Paterson, Edinburgh, 1880

Burton, John Hill: History of Scotland (2nd ed.), Vol. II, W. Blackwood, Edinburgh, 1873

Buxton, Ned, “The Keiths and the Gunns – Why the Feud?” Keith & Kin 25(1), Spring 2004

Caldwell, David H: Scotland’s Wars and Warriors, Stationery Office, Edinburgh, 1998

Creag Dubh – The annual publication of the Clan Macpherson Association, 10(2), 1997

Creag Dubh – The annual publication of the Clan Macpherson Association, 10(3), 1997

Davidson, CJ: ‘Commemoration of the Battle of the North Inch’, Clan Chattan, 10(4), 1998, pp. 230-1

Dunbar, AH: The Scottish Kings, Edinburgh, 2nd ed., 1906

Lindsay, Lord: Lives of the Lindsays; or a memoir of the houses of Crawford and Balcarres, John Murray, London, 1849

Logan, James: The Scottish Gael (2 vol.s), 1831

MacKenzie, Alexander: History of the Camerons, with Genealogies of the principal families of the name, A&W MacKenzie, Inverness, 1884

MacKintosh, Donald: Collection of Gaelic Proverbs, 1785

MacLean, JP: A History of the Clan MacLean, Robert Clarke & Co., Cincinnati, 1889

MacPherson, AF, and Alan G MacPherson: ‘The Black Chanter: The Growth of a Tradition’, Creag Dhubh (The Annual of the Clan MacPherson Assn.) no. 8, 1956

Millingen, JG: The History of Duelling: Including narratives of the most remarkable personal encounters that have taken place form the earliest period to the present time, 2 vol.s, Richard Bentley, London, 1841

Neilson, J: Trial by Combat, Glasgow, 1890

Oram, Richard (Ed.): The Kings and Queens of Scotland, Tempus Books, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2001

Scott, Sir Walter: The Fair Maid of Perth, University Press, Edinburgh, 1999 (reprint of the 1828 original)

Shaw, Alexander MacKintosh: The Clan Battle at Perth in 1396: An episode of highland history; with an enquiry into its causes, and an attempt to identify the clans engaged in it, Wimbledon, Surrey, 1874

Shaw of Tordarroch, CJ: A History of Clan Shaw, Phillimore, 1983

Skene, WF: Celtic Scotland: A History of Ancient Alban, David Douglas, Edinburgh, 1890

Stewart of Ardvorlich, John: The Camerons: A History of Clan Cameron, Clan Cameron Assn., Glasgow, 1986

Wyntoun, Andrew: Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland (ed. David Macpherson) Vol.II, Edinburgh, 1795

This article first appeared in the April/Spring 2008 issue of Military Heritage Magazine. The author would like to thank the Clan Macpherson Museum in Newtonmore, Inverness-hire and members of the Clan Macpherson Association for assistance in researching this article.

Mysterious Murders of Tuareg Negotiating with al-Qaeda Kidnappers in Mali

Andrew McGregor

April 23, 2008

The bodies of three brutally executed men were found in the desert region of Kidal in northern Mali last week. The victims turned out to be two Tuareg negotiators and a driver, assigned to mediate the release of two Austrian tourists, Wolfgang Ebner and Andrea Kloiber, who were kidnapped in February by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) while on an “adventure holiday” in Tunisia. The kidnappers are believed to be under the command of AQIM leader Abd al-Hamid Abu Zayd, though the Saharan amir of AQIM, Yahya Abu Amar, selected the mediators and made arrangements for the meeting. In exchange for the Austrians, AQIM is demanding a ransom and the release of an Islamist and his wife that the group claims are being held and tortured in “the Austrian Guantanamo” (AFP, April 7).

Abu ZaidAQIM commander Abd al-Hamid Abu Zaid

The murders of two of the six mediators appointed to negotiate the release of the two Austrians came only several days after negotiation efforts began (Al-Jazeera, April 16). The mediators were former rebel Tuareg commanders who were recently integrated into the Malian army as part of a peace deal struck last year. A student who was acting as a driver for mediator Baraka Cheikh was also killed after apparently being mistaken for Colonel Muhammad Ould Meydou, an Arab officer loyal to Bamako (El Khabar [Algiers], April 20). On arrival at a tent sent up for the purpose of negotiations, the men were tied up and repeatedly shot in the head.

The military commander of the Malian Tuareg rebels is Lt. Col. Hassan ag Fagaga, who has twice been integrated into the Malian army but has returned to the desert rebellion both times. Fagaga is now reported to be in league with rebel leader Ibrahim ag Bahanga, who held out from last year’s accord with the government (Reuters, April 8). In March Fagaga threatened to “eliminate” any al-Qaeda operatives who ventured into the area controlled by the Tuareg rebels, though he acknowledged that some AQIM members had infiltrated the area around Kidal, close to the Algerian border and the scene of heavy fighting between the rebels and the Malian army last month (El Khabar, March 5).

Though there is little evidence so far as to who is responsible for this crime, some Tuareg suspect intelligence agents connected to the Malian Army of carrying out the murders. Referring to continuing ethnic tensions within Mali, Ag Fagaga claims: “There is a plan to execute the commanders in the Malian army of Tuareg origin in the north…” (El Khabar, April 17). After the announcement of an unofficial truce earlier this month between Tuareg rebels and the Malian army, the heavy fighting seen in March has slackened off, though both sides remain on a war footing. The Tuareg rebels have their own hostages: 33 Malian soldiers who were captured last month but not released as they were supposed to be under the terms of the latest ceasefire.

Ag FagagaHassan ag Fagaga (

Negotiations for the release of the Austrians appear to have been suspended, though the Austrian Foreign Ministry asserts that efforts are continuing to obtain the release of the pair. Libya has also become involved in the negotiations at the highest levels, but three deadlines set by AQIM have already expired. Austria has denied sending its “Cobra” Special Forces team (Einsatzkommando Cobra, or EKO) to Mali to retrieve the hostages (El Khabar, March 26).

This article first appeared in the April 23, 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus

Taliban Commanders Accused of Blowing Up NATO Oil Tankers Released on Bail

Andrew McGregor

April 23, 2008

Four Taliban commanders arrested for organizing the destruction of nearly 40 oil tankers at the entrance to the Khyber Pass on March 23 have been released on bail. The tankers were carrying fuel for NATO forces in Afghanistan when six bombs ripped through the parking lot where they were awaiting clearance to pass through the Torkham border crossing. As part of the terms of their release, the South Waziristan Taliban commanders agreed to return 50,000 gallons of fuel and two oil tankers to Khyber Agency merchants and to release two abducted drivers (Daily Times [Lahore], April 17).

JavedJaved Ibrahim Paracha (Photo – Arshad Mahmood Virk)

The bail conditions were arranged after a jirga, or council, composed of Waziristan Taliban leaders—including Mir Qasim Janikhel and Ishaq Wazir—and Zakhakehl and Qambarkhel elders met to decide the case. The four accused Taliban commanders all hail from the Janikhel Wazir sub-tribe and include Khalid Rehman. The jirga was held at the home of Javed Ibrahim Paracha, who stated he had been asked to host the meeting by Interior Affairs Advisor Rehman Malik and Interior Secretary Kamal Shah (Daily Times, April 17). The Zakhakel and Qambarkhel elders agreed to withdraw their testimony against the suspects after initially charging them with terrorism.

Paracha was an interesting choice to head the jirga. A lawyer by trade, Paracha has aided many Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects and created support networks for the families of convicted terrorists. Paracha has been imprisoned twice by Pakistani President Musharraf for his political activities and claims to have been tortured by the FBI while incarcerated. According to Paracha, they were unable to coerce him by physical means so they offered him half a million dollars to become a “bridge” between the United States and the Taliban and al-Qaeda (New Yorker, January 28). He was a member of the national assembly from 1997 to 2002 on the ticket of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) and has built two madrassas, where the students are taught that “only Islam can provide the justice they seek” (New Statesmen, March 28, 2005). Paracha is also responsible for promoting sectarian attacks on the tiny Shiite community in his hometown of Kohat and neighboring villages (Daily Times, February 11, 2006).

There are other reports that Paracha was approached by the United States in 2005 to use his links with the militants to act as a conduit between Washington and the Taliban. At first, Paracha confirmed meeting to discuss this with State Department Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes and several U.S. military officials at an Islamabad hotel, but later stated that his visitors were “American businessmen who did ask me to help the U.S. ‘reconcile’ with al-Qaida and Taliban leaders in Afghanistan. The businessmen sought my help against anti-American feelings and for a safe exit of U.S. troops from Afghanistan under an agreement” (Daily Times, November 17; 2005; Dawn [Karachi], November 17, 2005; UPI, November 22, 2005).

Meanwhile the main highway supplying Coalition forces in Afghanistan from Pakistan continues to suffer interruptions, the latest being a six day closure last week due to fighting between Lashkar-i-Islam militants and Korikhel tribesmen resisting the militants’ attempt to impose “moral reforms” in the region (The News [Islamabad], April 19).

This article first appeared in the April 23, 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus

Iraqi al-Qaeda Trainer in Waziristan Releases Video

Andrew McGregor

April 16, 2008

An important but elusive al-Qaeda operative based in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region has released a videotape calling for jihad against the United States and its allies until final victory (The News [Islamabad], April 9). The veteran Iraqi jihadi, Abu Kasha—also known as Abdur Rahman al-Iraqi, Abu al-Marajel, and Arab Malang—has so far been known for his secretive ways, refusing to be photographed or to give interviews to media. Addressing a group of disguised jihadis in Arabic, Abu Kasha praises Osama bin Laden during the video and warns that the death of each mujahid will be avenged by the killing of 10 Coalition troops.

Reportedly operating from Mir Ali in North Waziristan and Afghanistan’s Kunar province, Abu Kasha runs a training camp for would-be jihadis, including special instruction in suicide bombings. Al-Qaeda has vowed revenge for a strike on Mir Ali by a CIA Predator UAV earlier this year (Al-Sahab Media, February 6; Al-Jazeera, February 7). Abu Kasha has a small command of his own under two local sub-commanders, Imanullah and Haq Nawaz Dawar (Daily Times [Lahore], January 9, 2007). He is also reported to have close ties to a breakaway faction of Uzbek fighters formerly under Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader Tahir Yuldash. A Pakistani military operation against Mir Ali last summer killed 15 jihadis, including 10 Uzbeks, but failed to kill its probable target, Abu Kasha (South Asia Terrorism Portal, August 19, 2007).

This article first appeared in the April 16, 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus

Leadership Bloodbath Marks Failure of Uganda’s LRA to Sign Peace Treaty

Andrew McGregor

April 16, 2008

For two decades Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has plunged northern Uganda into a nightmare of atrocities, sadistic mutilations, child-kidnappings and sexual slavery, all in the name of establishing a Ugandan government based on the Bible and the Ten Commandments. After years of fighting and recent internal dissension, the elusive LRA consists today of little more than 800 individuals, including kidnapped children and young women abducted and given as rewards to loyal LRA commanders. At least half its fighters are believed to be children kidnapped from north Uganda, though many older fighters appear to be drawn by opportunities for looting or even commitment to the cause of Acholi rights.



The Acholi-based LRA has its roots in the 1986 overthrow of Uganda’s Acholi ruler, General Tito Okello, by Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army (NRA). The Acholi are a sub-group of the Luo people of South Sudan’s Bahr al-Ghazal region who migrated to northern Uganda several centuries ago. Traditionally a dominant force in the Ugandan army, Acholi who feared a loss of influence in the new regime started a host of insurgent groups in north Uganda, many with religious and millennial overtones, such as Alice Lakwena’s Holy Spirit Movement. Infused with religious zeal, these movements initially adopted bizarre and frequently suicidal military methods such as using holy water to deflect bullets and attacking in cross-shaped formations.

LRA political manifestos, often written by diaspora Acholis, have had little resonance, partly because of successful attempts by the Kampala government to depict the LRA leadership as irrational and obsessed by religious fundamentalism. Typically these statements contain detailed criticism of Museveni’s one-party rule and call for Ugandan federalism, multi-party politics, free elections and broad political reforms [1].

LRA leader Joseph Kony failed to show up on April 10 for the long-awaited signing of the Final Peace Agreement (FPA), designed to bring a negotiated end to years of brutal violence in north Uganda. According to Ugandan government negotiators, all five phases of the complex agreement have been settled and all that remains is the ceremonial signing that will end the LRA’s 21-year “insurgency.” Kony’s failure to appear and sign the peace agreement may mark a bitter conclusion to two years of intensive negotiations brokered by Riek Machar, a former Nuer militia leader and current vice-president of the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS). With the Juba ceasefire agreement of August 2006 set to end on April 16, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has indicated the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) may be ready to resume operations against the LRA (New Vision [Kampala], April 14; Sudan Tribune, April 14).

Supported since 1994 by the Sudanese government as a proxy in Khartoum’s war against the Ugandan-backed Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in south Sudan, the conclusion of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) brought an end to the civil war and ended Khartoum’s need for the LRA. No longer secure in their bases along the Sudanese side of the border with Uganda, the LRA moved into the wilds of Garamba National Park in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In February Kony led nearly 200 followers into the southeastern Central African Republic (CAR), where they established a new base at Gbassiguri. Once settled, they attacked the CAR village of Obo in early March, abducting over 100 children and adolescents (Daily Monitor [Kampala], March 12; April 10). There are unverified reports that Kony’s group has joined up with a Chadian rebel movement also using the CAR as a base (New Vision, March 23). The area in which the LRA has settled is controlled by the rebel People’s Army for the Restoration of the Republic and Democracy (PARRD) which claims to be fighting the CAR government of President Francois Bozize. Both the Chadian rebels and the PARDD are alleged to be supported by Khartoum (Daily Monitor, February 26).

Kony appears to be using his new base in the CAR to attack his former hosts in South Sudan; on February 19 about 400 LRA fighters raided the Western Equatorian town of Source Yubu, killing seven SPLA soldiers and 11 civilians while abducting 27 people (New Vision, February 27).

The ceasefire agreement calls for all LRA fighters to assemble at Ri-Kwangba, in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria province, for final disarmament and demobilization. Some fighters have gathered nearby, but remain in the bush except for collecting their food rations. Most of Kony’s commanders and several hundred fighters appear to have remained behind at Gbassiguri rather than come in to Ri-Kwangba.

Kony’s chief negotiator, David Nyekorach Matsanga, claimed that the LRA leader had come in from the CAR and was in the bush nearby, but later admitted that he had had no contact with Kony for four days before the aborted signing of the FPA. The UK-based Matsanga was arrested by South Sudanese troops on his way to Juba airport on April 13 after being fired as chief negotiator by Kony. Matsanga was carrying $20,000 in cash and a letter to Kony from Yoweri Museveni (Sudan Tribune, April 14).

Kony has repeatedly said that a peace agreement is only possible if the 2005 International Criminal Court (ICC) indictments against him are dropped. To accommodate Kony and other LRA leaders, Uganda’s negotiators have proposed a mixture of mato oput (the traditional Acholi system of reconciliation rituals) for lesser crimes and recourse to a special Ugandan High Court for more serious offenses. The use of mato oput, which emphasizes reconciliation rather than punishment, is favored by Uganda’s chief justice, Benjamin Odoki, as well as many Acholi elders who are desperate for an end to the years of LRA terror and often ruthless retaliation from the UPDF (New Vision, May 17, 2007). Nearly two million internally displaced people are also ready to forgo ICC justice in order to return to their homes. The High Court could still charge Kony with various penalties subject to the death penalty, such as treason, murder and rape (Daily Monitor, February 20).

Having been invited into the process by the Ugandan government in 2005, however, the ICC is not so easy to dismiss when it becomes inconvenient. When the LRA began to move out of its traditional area of operations along the Sudanese-Ugandan border, Uganda invited international assistance through the ICC. The ICC responded by issuing indictments for war crimes and crimes against humanity against Kony and four other LRA leaders: Okot Odhiambo, Vincent Otti, Dominic Ongwen and Raska Lukwiya. Official Ugandan efforts to have the ICC drop the charges have failed; even Riek Machar’s attempt to depict the ICC as “European justice” has had no impact. Two lawyers representing the LRA have arrived in The Hague to file for the withdrawal of the indictments (New Vision, March 19). Under ICC rules, Kampala cannot request the suspension of arrest warrants once issued, even if Uganda were to reverse the ratification of its agreement to sign on to the ICC.

LRA BLate LRA Second-in-Command Okot Odhiambo

With the apparently aimless LRA stripped of its major sponsor and forced farther and farther from its north Ugandan homeland, there is intense internal pressure within the movement to conclude some sort of peace agreement with the Ugandan government. Over the last year Kony has typically dealt with these challenges through bloodshed within his own movement, culminating in the massacre last week in Garamba National Park of his deputy, Okot Odhiambo, and eight other commanders (Daily Monitor, April 14; AP, April 15). Of the five LRA leaders originally charged by the ICC, only Kony and Dominic Ongwen remain alive. Before his execution by Kony last October, LRA deputy leader Vincent Otti was a personal friend of Riek Machar and an advocate of negotiating a peace agreement. Several Otti loyalists surrendered to South Sudanese authorities in 2007 while Otti and his remaining followers were eliminated during and after a gun battle with Kony loyalists (Sudan Tribune, October 23, 2007; Reuters, December 1, 2007; Sudan Tribune, January 24). Raska Lukwiya was killed by the UPDF in August 2006.

There are signs that the continued survival of the LRA is in part due to corruption within the UPDF that has aided and at times abetted Kony’s movement. An ongoing investigation into the commanders of the UPDF’s 4th and 5th Divisions—operating in north Uganda—has revealed that as much of 50 percent of the strength of these units consisted of “ghost soldiers,” non-existent troops for whom salary was still drawn from the central government. The unneeded arms issued for these “ghost soldiers” may have been sold to the LRA for cash. Major-General James Kazini and two other senior officers were sent to prison late last month after being described by the committee of investigation as “conflict entrepreneurs” (Daily Monitor, March 31). There are also charges that Ugandan troops have misused permission given to mount cross-border operations against the LRA in Southern Sudan (Operation “Iron Fist”) to harvest valuable teak forests (VOA, September 29, 2007). The LRA has also been used in an attempt by Uganda to tap into funds available for fighting the War on Terrorism; according to Uganda’s External Security Organization (ESO) Director-General Robert Masolo: “You will recall that bin Laden was training the LRA into killer squads in Sudan, alongside other al-Qaeda terrorists who he was exporting to other parts of the world” (New Vision, June 12, 2007).

There are suggestions that the FPA might be signed in the absence of Joseph Kony, though such an act would be essentially meaningless as Kony’s brigands continue to raid isolated villages in the CAR and DRC. President Museveni has warned that the rebels can only expect to save themselves through signing the FPA: “If they don’t, they will perish” (New Vision, March 10). Kony’s refusal to appear has been a major embarrassment for Kampala and could be the signal for an all-out offensive against the movement to be carried out in cooperation with DRC authorities, who are also trying to bring an end to lawlessness in the eastern Congo.

This article first appeared in the April 16, 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus


1. Mareike Schomerus, “The Lord’s Resistance Army in Sudan: A History and Overview,” Small Arms Survey, Geneva, 2007.

Islamist Suicide Attack on Burundian Peacekeepers in Mogadishu

Andrew McGregor

April 16, 2008

A late afternoon suicide attack on the Burundi Army base in Mogadishu claimed the life of one Burundian peacekeeper and five civilians on April 8 (Shabelle Media Network, April 8). Two other Burundian soldiers were injured in the first strike by Islamist insurgents on the Burundian peacekeepers. A pickup truck loaded with explosives targeted the recently arrived Burundian contingent of AMISOM, the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by Shaykh Mukhtar Robow, the leader of al-Shabaab, a military wing of the Islamic Courts Union (Radio Shabelle, April 9).

Burundi - SomaliaBurundian Troops Man Defensive Line in Mogadishu (AP/Stuart Price)

The powerful explosion at the base on the grounds of the now-closed Banaadir University was heard throughout Mogadishu and shrapnel that spread 100 meters injured scores of people (HornAfrik, April 8; Radio Simba, April 9). A roadside bomb targeting a Burundian military convoy the next day failed to cause any casualties (AFP, April 9).

Muhammad “Dheere” Umar Habeb, a former Jowhar-based warlord who now acts as governor of Banaadir Region and mayor of Mogadishu, claimed that the perpetrator was “brainwashed” and acting under the orders of al-Qaeda (Somaaljecel, April 10). It is customary for officials of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to attribute all terrorist attacks in Somalia to al-Qaeda in order to secure military and financial support from the United States.

1,500 Ugandan troops arrived in Somalia in March 2007. They were expected to be the vanguard of an 8,000-strong African Union peacekeeping mission intended to support the TFG, establish stability, facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid and create conditions for long-term reconstruction and reconciliation. Since then, however, only 850 troops from Burundi have arrived to assist the hard-pressed Ugandans, who have been targeted several times for lethal attacks by the Islamist insurgents. Contingents from Nigeria, Ghana and Malawi have all failed to appear.

The attack on the Burundians seemed to fulfill a promise made last year by notorious ICU militant Aden Hashi Ayro: “We will fight and assassinate [Ugandan] officers. All other African troops sent to Somalia will face the same fate” (Qaadisiya, November 14, 2007). With its diminished numbers, the AU mission has had little impact and many Somalis view the peacekeepers’ mission to be one of support to the Ethiopian occupation force and the U.S.-backed TFG warlord government. Force de défence nationale (FDN) spokesman Lt. Col. Adolphe Manirakiza stated that the sole objective of the Burundian troops was to “help the Somali brothers reconcile,” noting that “every trade has its risks…” (Panapress, April 9). The FDN initially claimed it was unable to fulfill its commitment to AMISOM due to equipment shortages and transportation difficulties but has since received assistance from France and the United States (, April 9).

This article first appeared in the April 16, 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus

Ahmadzai Wazir Tribesmen Negotiate Return of Taliban Commanders

Andrew McGregor

April 9, 2008

The Afghanistan Taliban are mediating ongoing negotiations for the return of Taliban commanders and Uzbek militants to the Wana region of South Waziristan after they were forcibly expelled last year by Ahmadzai Wazir tribesmen under the command of rival Taliban commander Maulvi Nazir.

Maulvi NazirMaulvi Nazir

The negotiations will likely result in the return of the expelled Taliban commanders, but while Maulvi Nazir appears to have softened his stance towards the Uzbeks, their return remains strongly opposed by Ahmadzai tribal elders despite guarantees of their “good behavior” by the Afghan Taliban (Daily Times [Lahore], April 4). The Uzbeks have turned down offers to resettle in Taliban-controlled areas of Helmand and Zabul provinces, where they could be targeted by ISAF forces (Dawn [Karachi], April 5, 2007).

The Taliban commanders seeking to return—Ghulam Jan, Maulvi Abbas, Haji Muhammad Umar, Maulvi Javed Karmazkhel and Noor Islam—were all commanders under Nek Muhammad, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in 2004. They were well known for harboring the Uzbek militants whose predilection for violent activities—including contract assassinations—created major rifts with the tribesmen who had initially offered them refuge after being driven out of Afghanistan in late 2001. The Utmanzai Wazirs of North Waziristan have joined the Ahmadzai in their attempts to expel the Uzbeks from the region (The News [Islamabad], April 5). The Uzbeks are hardened veteran fighters who cannot easily be eliminated by any one party. They are mostly veteran members of Tahir Yuldash’s Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), though rival leaders have emerged during their long exile from Uzbekistan.

As part of a peace agreement with the Pakistan government in early 2005, Maulvi Abbas, Haji Muhammad Umar and Maulvi Javed Karmazkhel were issued massive cash payments from the secret service fund to repay money they claimed al-Qaeda had advanced to finance attacks on Pakistani security forces (Dawn, February 8, 2005). Noor Islam is a Wana-based Taliban commander closely associated with Uzbek and Arab elements while Ghulam Jan is a strong opponent of Maulvi Nazir (Daily Times, January 9, 2007). Haji Muhammad Umar and Noor Islam belong to the powerful Yargulkhel sub-tribe of the Ahmadzai; Maulvi Nazir is from the much weaker Ghulamkhel sub-tribe but wields considerable influence in the area due to his skills as a fighter.

At a meeting two weeks ago between Maulvi Nazir and his local rival, Tehrek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander Baitullah Mehsud, the latter told Nazir that he would not expel the Uzbek militants from the region as he had been asked to harbor them by Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin Haqqani and the day-to-day commander of the Haqqani network (The News, April 5). Due to tribal animosities, the Ahmadzai and Mehsud have maintained separate Taliban commands.


This article first appeared in the April 9 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus

German Forces in Afghanistan Warned of Attacks by German Islamists

Andrew McGregor

April 9, 2008

Germany’s Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA) announced on April 3 that “potentially threatened institutions in Afghanistan,” including bases of the German Bundeswehr, had been warned of possible terrorist attacks from two German citizens (DDP, April 4). The Germans are believed to have passed through Egypt, Dubai, Iran and Pakistan on their way to Afghanistan, making it difficult to monitor their progress.

GermansGerman Troops in Afghanistan

Pictures of the two men, 20-year-old Nuenkirchen native and convert to Islam Eric B. (alias Abdul Rafar) and a native of Lebanon with German citizenship identified as Houssain al-M., were sent to Afghanistan, where they were circulated amongst German personnel and placed on public wanted posters. According to German security officials, the two are operating under direct orders from al-Qaeda and the Taliban (Der Spiegel, April 7). The suspects are believed to belong to the Islamist Jihad Union (IJU), a radical Uzbek organization that has taken roots in Germany.

The two are also believed to be associates of the so-called Sauerland cell, which was broken up by German authorities while planning a major attack on a U.S. military base in Germany. The Sauerland cell included two native German converts to Islam, Daniel Schneider and Fritz Gelowicz, as well as an ethnic-Turkish German citizen, Adem Yilmaz. Another ethnic-Turkish German, Cuneyt Ciftci, a.k.a. Saad Ebu Furkan, died in a March 3 suicide bombing on a U.S. military post in Afghanistan’s Khost province that killed two U.S. soldiers and two civilians. Responsibility for the attack was claimed in a video by Jaluluddin Haqqani, the veteran jihadi and leader of the Taliban-allied Haqqani network.

Like the members of the Sauerland cell, the latest suspects are believed to have received training from Taliban elements in the Waziristan region of Pakistan. Houssain al-M. was arrested in Waziristan by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) last year and deported to Germany (Der Spiegel, April 4). Another German from the state of Hesse, identified as Sadullah K., was killed in a U.S. airstrike on a training camp along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border last October (Spiegel Online, March 15).

The warnings come as Germany’s parliament is considering the future of Germany’s mission in Afghanistan. Germany’s ISAF contingent of 3,500 troops operates in the relatively quiet northern provinces of Afghanistan—Regional Command North, based in Mazar-i-Sharif—under a caveat that prevents them from participating in combat operations. The Taliban has promised to open a new front to engage these troops as part of its spring offensive; three German soldiers were injured in an attack on their tank on March 27 (Deutsche Welle, March 27). There are also plans to add 500 new counter-terrorism agents to the BKA, including doubling the size of the Mobile Task Force (Der Spiegel, April 7).


This article first appeared in the April 9, 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor