Maiduguri: A radical Islamist sect that has attacked mosques, churches, schools and government buildings at will in Nigeria appears to have added a new target for its violence: mobile phone towers.
Attacks in the last day have damaged more than 20 towers operated by all the major providers in the country, further straining the one link the nation relies on for communication in a country with nearly no landlines.
While no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, the Islamist sect known as Boko Haram threatened mobile phone companies six months ago, warning that they would be targeted for cooperating with the government to flush out its members.
The assaults, which continued into this morning, appear to be "an attack on the telecoms industry," said Gbenga Adebayo, the chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria. It also would be a further strain on people living in a region long under attack by the radical sect.
"We are worried because this infrastructure is meant to serve the public," Adebayo said.
"So an attack on infrastructure is an attack on the public itself."
Communications across northeast Nigeria remained difficult Thursday, with residents unable to connect calls or having them drop in mid-conversation. Internet service also was poor, as most access the web through mobile phone networks.
It could take months for service to improve in the region, especially if attacks continue as other companies have been leery of sending staff to the region.