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Roshan CEO says competitors are paying off the Taliban

Afghan mobile operator says that competitors are paying protection money to stop Taliban sabotaging communications masts

Afghan telecoms company Roshan has accused rival operators in the country of paying protection money to the Taliban to ensure their mobile phone infrastructure is not sabotaged.

According to the Financial Times, Karim Khoja, CEO of Roshan Telecom, questioned why his company has apparently been targeted by terrorists when competing networks have not been attacked.

The Ministry of Communications reports that of ten mobile phone masts destroyed in Afghanistan this year, eight belong to Roshan. Roshan shut down seven sites in the country over security fears.

Khoja said: "Two years ago our people in the south rarely got threatened because we were really the only service provider. But once our competitors came to the south the number of attacks on Roshan, in terms of being threatened and asked for money, went up. I believe the competition is paying money, but we don't do that."

The Taliban has previously threatened mobile operators and insisted that they shut down mobile networks from 5pm to 7am as it was believed that US forces were tracing the Taliban through mobile networks.

The FT reports says that Roshan competitors Afghan Wireless, Etisalat and state-run Afghan Telecom denied making payments related to threats, while South African MTN was not available for comment.