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Taliban Bombs Cell Phone Towers in Southern Afghanistan

Date: 3/4/2008 3:37:30 AM

Taliban insurgents have destroyed at least two cell phone towers in southern Afghanistan in recent days, after phone companies failed to respond to demands that they shut off wireless service at night or face attacks on infrastructure.

Afghan militants apparently believe that NATO troops in the country are using mobile phone networks to track the Taliban and coordinate attacks against it. A Taliban spokesman said earlier in the week that militants would begin blowing up telecommunications towers if carriers did not voluntarily switch them off every night.

The first attack occurred on Friday, destroying a tower located in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, and owned by Areeba, one of Afghanistan’s four active mobile phone providers. A second incident was recorded yesterday in the neighbouring Helmand province’s Sangin district.

Mobile phone companies began serving remote areas of Afghanistan after various tribal elders encouraged them to do so, according to Abdul Hadi Hadi, a spokesman with the country’s Telecommunications Ministry. Wireless service only came to Afghanistan in 2001, after the U.S. and its allies overthrew the terroristsupporting Taliban government.

“When they destroy any tower, it shows direct enmity to the people of that area. I don’t think the destruction of the towers has any direct effect on the government. It is the people who suffer,” Hadi commented.

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