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Taliban blows up Afghanistan's telecom towers

THE TALIBAN IS severely ticking off the citizens of Afghanistan and even some of their own fighters with a bizarre policy that involves attacking the country’s own cell phone towers, leaving 10 per cent of the national population (300,000 people) with no cell phone coverage whatsoever at night.

The wacky funsters have said that the reason they’ve decided to wage phoney war on the towers is that they believe that the U.S. military and NATO can use their phone signals (apparently only at night) to track them down and carry out pinpoint attacks on them.

According to AP, 10 towers have been attacked this month alone, causing almost $2 million in damage.

To protect the towers from any further damage, all four Afghani network providers, Roshan, AWCC, Areeba and Etisalat, have decided that it might just be safer to just switch them off voluntarily, leaving about a quarter of a million angry, networkless Afghanis stuck in the dark with no one to chat to. Except maybe to their wives (Allah forbid!)

The mobile phone industry has seen massive growth in Afghanistan since telecom towers were first set up there in late 2002. In just six years, the country has racked up 5.4 million mobile users and the communications industry has invested over $1 billion in infrastructure for them. A. Sangin, the Afghani telecommunications minister reckons that the country could see another $500 million in investments over the next two years, despite the attacks. Sangin also said that he believed "people will stand up and provide protection for the telecom towers".

The ironic thing is that even some Taliban fighters are irked by the disruptions in cellular coverage they have caused and are actually demanding that the network providers restore full service. In a telephone interview to AP (probably during daylight hours), Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman said " We see that some people are having problems, so we might change the times that the networks are shut down in the coming days".

Of course, the logical and sensible thing for the Taliban to do to avoid being electronically tracked (without significantly peeving the local population) is to simply turn off their phones and take the batteries out, but then again, that just takes all the fun out of blowing things up, doesn’t it?

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