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Taliban attack 2 more phone towers

Afghanistan Phone Threat
An Afghan security officer stands guard next to a telecommunications tower in Kabul on Friday. Rafiq Maqbool / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Taliban militants have attacked two more telecom towers in southern Afghanistan after warning phone companies to shut down the towers at night.

Militants burned the base station of a tower in Kandahar city late Saturday owned by the Roshan company, said Qarim Agha, a police officer.

Another Roshan tower was damaged by insurgents in the Sangin district of neighboring Helmand province, said provincial police chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal. Roshan declined to comment.

A Taliban spokesman said last week that militants would blow up towers across Afghanistan if mobile phone companies did not switch off their signals overnight. The militants fear U.S. and other foreign troops are using mobile phone signals to track insurgents and launch attacks against them.

In the first attack after issuing the threat, the Taliban destroyed a tower along the main highway in the Zhari district of Kandahar province on Friday. That tower was owned by Areeba, one of Afghanistan's four mobile phone companies.

Militants have threatened mobile phone companies in the past, accusing them of collusion with the U.S. and other foreign military forces.

The destruction of the cell towers will affect thousands of Afghan phone users, but it will also affect the Taliban, because militant fighters rely on mobile phones to communicate and coordinate their operations.

Communications experts say the U.S. military can use satellites and other means to pick up mobile phone signals without the phone company's help. Mobile phones periodically send signals to the network even when they are not making calls.

The U.S. has said it killed more than 50 mid- and top-level Taliban leaders over the last year. Many military raids that target specific leaders are conducted at night.

Mobile phones were introduced in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. They have become the principal means of communication and one of the fastest-growing and most profitable sectors in the country's economy.