Taliban cuts of cell phone service in Helmand Province: Report

Cell phone operators in the Helmand province of Afghanistan have cut off their service in the region after receiving threats from the Taliban.

Updated: Mar 25, 2011, 23:03 PM IST

New York: Cell phone operators in the
Helmand province of Afghanistan have cut off their service in
the region after receiving threats from the Taliban.

Cell phone service has been cut off in the Helmand
province of Afghanistan for more than a week by the order of
the Taliban, The New York Times reported.

"The Afghan government is not capable of securing
the cellphone towers and installations," said Ahmad Shah
Lemar, head of the regional office of Afghanistan Wireless
Communications Company, one of the country`s major cellphone
carriers.

"We have been receiving threats from the Taliban
repeatedly to shut down our services, and if not our employees
would be killed and our towers would be burnt," he added.

Confronted by threats, the regional heads of all
the major companies met about a week ago and decided to shut
down their systems, according to Lemar.

Qari Mohammed Yousuf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the
Taliban in southern Afghanistan, told NYT that the Taliban
leadership had ordered all cell phone networks in Helmand
closed "until further notice."

"The main reason for the decision is, to stop
foreigners tracing our mujahideen, then raiding and bombing
the area which causes massive civilian causalities," Ahmadi
said.

"It will degrade their ability to track down
mujahideen and consequently would decrease civilian
causalities."

"Further notice could be short time or long time. But
we will evaluate the situation and see," he added.

"We are well aware of the problems it may cause. After
that we will get a decision what to do."

Local government has been trying to convince cell
phone companies that they will be protected.

"We have repeatedly assured the cellphone companies
that their towers and employees would be guarded and we won’t
allow the insurgents to attack or torch their towers," said
Abdul Satar Merzakwal, the deputy governor of Helmand
Province, "so there is no reason for the cellphone companies
to be worried."

Lemar, however said that security was available to
towers close to the governor`s office or police headquarters,
according to The Times.

"The Taliban already burned down two of our towers,"
Lemar said.

"One in Grishk district of Helmand Province and one
in the Tajir Abad area of Qalat city, which is a big financial
loss for us."

PTI