Afghan telecoms companies buckle to Taliban pressure

Mobile phone networks shut down at night following attacks on towers

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By  Quintin Smith Published  March 13, 2008

All four existing mobile telecoms companies in Afghanistan have agreed to shut down their networks each night following Taliban attacks on their booster towers.

The Taliban issued the telecoms companies with an ultimatum last month, threatening violence if they didn’t shut down their networks between 5pm and 7am.

It was initially suggested that this came about due to fears that American and UN forces were tracking Taliban militia members via their mobile phone handsets. However, as turning off the handset renders this impossible it’s believed they may have an alternate motivation.

The Taliban also claimed that the telecoms companies were actively collaborating with foreign forces.

A spokesman for the Afghan telecommunications ministry told the BBC “We will persuade the companies to turn the signals back on again," but added that "the mobile phone companies had promised us that they would not bow before the Taliban demand."

Since mobile phones were introduced in Afghanistan in 2002 the country’s market for them has grown enormously, with the two biggest service providers, Roshan and AWCC, now boasting some three million subscribers between them.

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