KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Feb 25, 2008 (AFP) — The Taliban threatened Monday to attack mobile phone facilities in Afghanistan, alleging that the technology was being used at night to pin-point the Islamic rebels' hideouts.
Zabihullah Mujahed, a rebel spokesman, said that several phone companies had been given three days to respond to militants' demands that they cut night time operations or face attacks, notably on antennas erected across the country.
"The invading forces are using mobile phones for military purposes," Mujahed told AFP, referring to about 60,000 foreign personnel deployed in Afghanistan to hunt down Taliban militants who are waging a deadly insurgency.
"Usually during the nights the mobile phones are being used to spy on the Taliban to track down their footpaths. Here we ask the (mobile) companies to halt their operations from five o'clock in the evening to seven in the morning," he said.
Mujahed read out a statement which he said was from the Taliban leadership.
"We give them three days to halt their operations during night time or we will target their facilities," he told AFP by phone from an unknown location.
With 700 million dollars of investment, the burgeoning communications industry is one of the biggest development projects in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime in a US-led invasion in late 2001.
According to the country's telecommunications ministry, over five million Afghans are currently using mobile phones, provided by five mainly foreign companies.
Abdul Hadi Hadi, a spokesman for the ministry, told AFP that the Taliban would be hampering their own operations if they carried out their threat.
"The Taliban themselves are using mobile phone for communications," he said.
Several Taliban spokesmen contact media by mobile phone to get their messages out or to claim responsibility for attacks.
The Taliban is the main insurgent group behind a bloody insurgency aimed at toppling the US-backed government in Kabul and ousting Western troops.
The rebels have targeted Afghan and Western security forces, foreign investments and aid workers.
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