Taliban shut down cell phones in Afghan province

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KABUL – All mobile phone services in a southern Afghan province whose capital will be among the first towns to be placed under local control have been shut down on Taliban orders, an operator said on Thursday. The move underscores the power still wielded by the insurgents in Helmand, Afghanistan’s largest province and the heartland of the global opium trade, as NATO prepares to hand over control of its capital Lashkar Gar this summer. MTN, one of Afghanistan’s four mobile phone operators, said the Taliban had threatened to attack its operations if it did not switch off the signal in Helmand.
“The Taliban has again ordered all mobile phone companies to shut down operations and we have done so,” Mohammad Naser Nasery, the head of MTN’s legal department, told AFP. “We decided to obey the orders and we have been shut since yesterday (Wednesday). We cannot afford for our antennae and other facilities to be destroyed.” He added that other operators had had to make similar moves. No one from the provincial government could immediately be reached for comment but a spokesman for the Taliban said it had ordered the shutdown because of a recent increase in attacks on its fighters. “Our Mujahideen have been increasingly targeted by foreigners recently and we know they are using the services of these phone companies against us,” Yusuf Ahmadi told AFP. Taliban militants regularly demand that mobile phone companies switch off their networks at night, fearing that NATO-led forces can track them through phone signals.
The order often comes at nightfall, when coalition operations against the Taliban are most common, and there have been a number of attacks on mobile phone towers across the country. However, mobile phones are the primary means of communication in rural areas such as Helmand and it is rare for the insurgents to call an indefinite switch-off. President Hamid Karzai announced on Tuesday that Lashkar Gah would be among the first areas to be handed over to Afghan security forces this summer as part of a transition designed to allow foreign troops to leave by the end of 2014.

1 COMMENT

  1. Its amazing that the area which being planned to hand over to local forces is still in the control of Taliban. KARZAI should take his decision back but just follow the direction of taliban..lol

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