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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 March 2008, 12:23 GMT
Taleban threat hits Afghan phones
By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News, Kabul

Queues of potential Roshan GSM customers snake around the courtyard outside a showroom
Afghans increasingly depend on mobile phones to communicate
Afghan mobile phone companies have begun switching off their signals at night in parts of the restive south after several attacks by the Taleban.

Ten mobile phone masts were attacked in recent weeks, the latest on Tuesday night, the Afghan government says.

Last month the Taleban threatened the companies, alleging that the networks were being used by Afghan and Nato troops to target them.

Mobile phones are the only form of communication for many Afghans.

They were introduced to the country in 2001, after the fall of the Taleban.

The latest attack took place on Tuesday night, when a mobile phone tower was set on fire in the western province of Herat.

Since a threat by the Taleban last month to target the towers unless the phone companies switched off their signals at night, 10 such facilities have been attacked, six of them completely destroyed.

Government 'concern'

Afghanistan has four mobile phone companies, all privately owned, and they now appear to have begun complying.

In two southern provinces, Zabul and Ghazni, the phone networks have stopped working between five in the evening and seven in the morning.

The deputy police chief in Ghazni, Mohammad Zaman, said this was the result of the Taleban's warning.

"We will persuade the companies to turn the signals back on again," he said.

Similar reports have come in from several districts in four other southern provinces, including Kandahar and Helmand, which are both Taleban strongholds.

The phone companies have refused to speak on the issue but a spokesman for the telecommunications ministry, Abdul Hadi Hadi, told the BBC that the government had asked them to resist the Taleban pressure.

"We are concerned because the mobile phone companies had promised us that they would not bow before the Taleban demand," Mr Hadi said.

Mobile phones are the only way most Afghans are able to communicate, especially in remote areas where they are used to summon medical help or contact relatives.

Many Afghans living in the affected areas are now complaining that they are being inconvenienced and are also feeling insecure.



SEE ALSO
Afghans launch new mobile network
26 Jun 03 |  Business
Afghanistan joins mobile age
19 Feb 02 |  Science/Nature

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