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Phone companies suspend services in Helmand

Phone companies suspend services in Helmand

Mar 24, 2011 - 17:15

LASHKARGAH (PANinfo-icon): Mobile phone companies have suspended services once again in southern Helmand province due to Talibaninfo-icon threats.

The ministry of telecommunications has said it cannot force the companies to resume services.

It is the second time in 10 days that mobile phone companies have suspended their services after Taliban threats.  

Last week, four phone networks AWCC, Roshan, Etisalat and MTN, shut their services for three days.

The suspension not only causes problems for the government, but residents and businessmen too.

Khair Mohammad Faizy, an official at the telecommunication ministry, said that according to the law, privately run mobile phone companies cannot be forced to provide services.

If a company faces financial or security threats, they are entitled to close their business, he said.

Last week, the Taliban set fire to AWCC, Roshan, MTN and Etisalat towers in Helmand. Local elders had supported the government in trying to reactivate services in the area, he said.

He said it was an issue that had been going on in the province for two years, but had recently increased.

Abdul Satar Mirkozawal, deputy governor of Helmand, said the government had contacted officials at the mobile phone companies to assure them that they would help with security.

Some residents are sceptical about the closure, asking how the Taliban could threaten companies when they had been weakened in the province. Some residents have suggested that the international coalition is behind the suspension of services.

Mohammad Wali, a businessman in Lashkargah, said security was relatively good in Helmand.

He said the closure of mobile phone services was causing businessmen like himself a lot of problems and financial losses.

Islamudin, who also lives in Lashkargah, said it was worrying that the government planned to hand security of the city to Afghan forces when it could not even protect mobile phone companies. “The Taliban have showed their power with such an action.”

Fazil Mohammad Sapi, the provincial telecommunications director, rejected claims that NATOinfo-icon-led forces were behind the closure of services. He said it was well known that the Taliban had issued threats to mobile phone companies.

The International Security Assistance Force in Kabulinfo-icon also rejected any involvement in suspension of mobile phone services in Helmand.

A week ago, Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, said the Taliban was not behind the suspension of services, but on Thursday he said foreign forces had used mobile phones to coordinate bombing and other attacks of their fighters.

He said the Taliban had issued threats to the companies.




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