Taliban lift daytime phone ban in Afghan province

KABUL – Taliban insurgents have lifted a ban on mobile telephone companies operating their networks during daylight hours in the Afghan province of Ghazni, residents said Tuesday.

The local ban in Ghazni, two hours’ drive south of Kabul, was imposed two weeks ago and came on top of a Taliban order to phone operators in February to turn off their networks at night across the country.

“Mobile phones are working again for the past couple of days, it is great,” said resident Sherin Agha by phone from Ghazni town.

Taliban insurgents have destroyed several mobile phone towers in the south, causing resentment among residents for whom mobile phones are a vital means of communication. After 30 years of war, there are almost no landlines still working.

The night-time shutdown has been only partially enforced in the south and most networks continue to operate freely in the more peaceful north of the country.

Removed from power in 2001, the resurgent Taliban imposed the restrictions saying signals helped track its fighters. The al Qaeda-backed group also relies on mobile phones for communications.

Five mobile operators, three of them foreign companies, with an estimated investment of several hundred million dollars have set up business in Afghanistan since U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban.

NATO and Afghan officials say the Taliban want mobile phone networks shut down to prevent villagers informing the authorities of their presence.

Ghazni was regarded as safe two years ago but Taliban militants have infiltrated into the area and now set up regular road blocks along the main highway, destroying supply trucks and killing or abducting foreigners or government workers.

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