KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, March 15 (Reuters) - Mobile phone operators have shut down their networks at night in parts of Afghanistan after attacks by Taliban militants who say troops use the signals to track them down, residents and a phone company official said on Saturday.
Residents in parts of southern Afghanistan reported their mobile telephones no longer worked at night and an official from one of the companies confirmed its network had been shut down from dusk till dawn in some areas of the country.
The Taliban last month ordered mobile phone operators to switch off their networks from 5 p.m. till 7 a.m. and have attacked and destroyed around 10 mobile phone towers since then to drive home their threat.
The latest attack on a mobile phone tower came just before dawn on Saturday in the southern province of Kandahar, a mobile telephone company official said.
"During the day, we have problems with some Afghan forces who close down our operations because they say we shut down for the night," said the official from a mobile phone company in the southern city of Kandahar who declined to be named.
"We told them: ‘guarantee our security and protect us, then we will operate round the clock’," he told Reuters.
Residents from parts of Kandahar and Helmand in the south and the adjacent provinces of Zabul and Ghazni further north all reported their mobile telephones not working at night.
Ousted from power in 2001, Taliban militants themselves largely rely on mobile and satellite phones for communicating with each other and the media in their campaign to oust the pro-Western Afghan government and drive out foreign troops.
Mobile phones are virtually the only means of communication in Afghanistan, a country ravaged by three decades of war.
Four mobile operators, three of them foreign firms, with an estimated investment of several hundred million dollars have sprung up in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s removal. (Reporting by Mirwais Afghan; Writing by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)