Battle of Jaji

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Battle of Jaji
Part of the Soviet war in Afghanistan
Date May 20 - June 13, 1987
Location Paktia province
Result Unclear
  • Soviet troops withdrawal from the area
  • Osama bin Laden propaganda victory
 Soviet Union
Afghanistan Republic of Afghanistan
Afghan and Arab Mujahideen
Commanders and leaders
Soviet Union Boris Gromov

Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev
Afghanistan M. Najibullah

Afghanistan Mohammed Rafie
Gullbudin Hekmatyar
Jalaluddin Haqqani
O. bin Laden (WIA)
Mohammed Anwar
Abdullah Azzam
~200 Spetsnaz operators and Paratroopers[1]
Unknown Number of Afghan Army
Unknown number of local militia
Unknown number of Arabs[1][2]
Unknown number of Afghans
Casualties and losses
2 Soviets KIA
unknown number of Army personnel and militia KIA
50+ Arab volunteers KIA
70+ Afghani insurgents KIA
Osama Bin Laden injured

The Battle of Jaji occurred in May 1987, during the first stage of withdrawal of Soviet forces from their war in Afghanistan.[3] Remaining Soviet troops supported the Soviet-backed government's operations in Paktia Province against the Mujahideen, hoping to relieve a besieged garrison at Ali Sher, and cut off supply lines to the Mujahideen from Pakistan.[4]

The battle[edit]

The Mujahideen al-Masada ("Lion's Den") compound had been constructed by Osama bin Laden, in order to have a training facility that didn't rely on Pakistan.[5] On May 20, after Ali Sher had been relieved, Jaji was attacked by approximately 200 Soviet Airborne Troops, Spetsnaz, the Soviet-backed Afghan Army and tribal militias.[1]

The Mujahideen army was estimated from as low as 50 members, to numbering "in the thousands", having drawn recruits from the surrounding area,[1][6] including forces from all seven of the resistance parties. Among the leaders were Jalaluddin Haqqani and Mohammed Anwar, whose experienced troops were carrying Stinger and Blowpipe missiles that threatened Soviet gunships.[4] Enaam Arnaout also participated, identifying himself to Arab press as "Abu Mahmoud, from Syria", and he was photographed alongside Bin Laden and quoted as saying that the Soviets had dropped napalm, destroying the trees that the Mujahideen had hoped to use for fortifications.[2][7] Essam al-Ridi, an American who participated in the battle, later claimed that as many as 50 Mujahideen had been killed and only 2 Soviets, disillusioning him.[8] During the battle, Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri and Mohammed Atef both led raids which encircled the Soviet siege, ambushing them outside the encampment, al-Banshiri being shot in the leg during one excursion.[2]

Others participating in the battle included Abdullah Azzam and his son Hutaifa, Abu Khalil who was in charge of keeping up a steady barrage of mortars, and Wael Julaidan.[2] Abu Zaheb and Khaled el Kerde were both killed in the battle.[9]

This battle later became famous due the participation of bin Laden, whose force of 50 Arabs fought alongside the Afghan rebels. However, bin Laden and his fighters eventually retreated after taking losses.[10]

At least 50 of the Arab volunteers and about 70 Afghans were killed in the week-long battle, and bin Laden suffered a foot wound.[1] Ahmed Khadr would often praise the bravery of the fighters in Jaji to his children, but refused to confirm whether or not he had actually participated.[11]

In the end, the Mujahideen successfully held their complex system of tunnels and caves named al-Masada just outside the village of Jaji, near the Pakistani border, from Soviet capture.[12][6]


Although relatively unimportant in military terms, the battle had been chronicled daily by Arab press outlets during its firefights, and left an impression of bin Laden as a victorious military leader, attracting a number of followers to his cause.[13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Coll, Steve (2004). Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Penguin Books. p. 163. ISBN 1-59420-007-6. 
  2. ^ a b c d Bergen, Peter, "The Osama bin Laden I Know', 2006.
  3. ^ Grau, Lester. "Breaking contact nowithout leaving chaos: the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan". Foreign Military Studies Office Publications. Retrieved 2007-08-17. 
  4. ^ a b Isby, David (1989). War in a distant country, Afghanistan: invasion and resistance. Arms and Armour Press. pp. p42. ISBN 0-85368-769-2. 
  5. ^ Coll, 157, 163-164
  6. ^ a b McGirk, Tim (2005-08-06). "Moscow's Graveyard". Time. Retrieved 2007-08-04. 
  7. ^ Khashoggi, Jamal (May 4, 1988). "Arab youths fight shoulder to shoulder with Mujahedeen". Arab News: 9. Lay summary. 
  8. ^ PBS, Avoiding Amrageddon: Essam Alridi
  9. ^ Jihad magazine, Issues 57 & 58, July/August 1989
  10. ^ Bergen, Peter (May 28, 2002). Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama Bin Laden. Free Press. pp. p56–57. ISBN 0-7432-3467-7. 
  11. ^ Michelle Shephard, "Guantanamo's Child", 2008.
  12. ^ Clarke, Richard A. (2006-01-22). "Review of the "Osama bin Laden I know" by Dick Clarke in the Washington Post". Archived from the original on 2007-04-22. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  13. ^ "Profile of Osama bin Laden (transcript)". 2006-08-22. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  14. ^ "Reagan's Osama Connection". Slate. 2004-06-10. Archived from the original on 8 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-28. 
  • Jihad magazine, "With our four automobiles against the Warsaw Pact", Issue 31, June 1987