UPDATE: Mobile services shut down in Afghanistan

Many Afghans rely on mobile phones to communicate

Afghan mobile phone companies have given in to Taliban demands and begun to switch off the signal at night after militants blew up a number of mobile phone masts.

The BBC reports that up to 10 mobile masts have been targeted in recent weeks, with the latest attack occurring on Tuesday night. Of these, six have been put completely out of action.

Late in February a Taliban spokesman warned that the group would target the masts unless the phone companies switched them off at night.

The Taliban believes that the US and its allies have been using mobile phone signals to track its movements and launch attacks. It has accused the phone companies of collusion in this process.

No landline infrastructure

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Communication and Technology condemned the attacks and said all warring parties should respect the mobile network. For many Afghans, the mobile phone network remains the only form of contact as there is virtually no landline infrastructure.

The four mobile phone operators – all private companies – are already coming under pressure from officials not to bow to Taliban demands. To date, all four companies have declined to comment.

Abdul Hadi, a spokesman for the Telecommunications Ministry, told the BBC that the Afghan government was disappointed in the move. "We are concerned because the mobile phone companies had promised us that they would not bow before the Taleban demand," he told the BBC.

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