back to article Taliban demand night-time cell tower shutdown

Reports out of Afghanistan say that the Taliban have threatened attacks on mobile phone companies unless "signals" are "stopped" at night. Reportedly the hardline Islamic militia believes that cell towers are being used to locate and track Taliban gunmen. The BBC quotes Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujaheed as saying: "If those …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    A missed opportunity

    A missed opportunity for great puns here, Lewis.

    "Terrorist cells demand sleeper cells"

    "Tele-ban for Taliban"

    "Muja-hadeen in Midnight Mobile Muddle?"

  2. Anonymous Coward


    "Or it might be that the Taliban - the Taliban press office, anyway - simply isn't up on the technical issues."

    You are discussing a 600 year backward society founded on idiotic religious dogma. Of course they don't understand the technical issues.

    I'm amazed the know what a cell tower is.

    We should deport them to Mars until they have evolved to a sufficient intellectual maturity to be able to deal with the rest of the world.

    Of course then we will no doubt discover that Mars has some rich deposits of some much coveted fuel source and the civilised world will have to turn a blind eye to the barbarians once more.

  3. 4a$$Monkey


    I propose a compromise. Why not give out free tinfoil hats!

    It would also make the Taliban guys much easier to identify for the NATO troops.

    Coat> Mines the camouflaged one.

  4. Naadir Jeewa

    For all your Taliban current affairs needs

    Maybe Panorama was aired on BBC World?

  5. s
    Gates Horns

    ALWAYS take the Battery Out!

    If you want to "turn your mobile off", you must ALWAYS take the battery out (and leave it a while). Simply pressing the OFF button doesn't actually turn the phone off, it just swicthes it into a "standby".


    Turn on your FM radio, and tune into your favourite radio station. Now put your handset next to it, and turn it "off" using the ON/OFF button. And leave it. Every once in a while, your favourite radio station's transmission will be interrupted, as the network sends out broadcast signals to yourhandset, and your handset responds - even after you have turned it "off".

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    it is the harmful radiation - finally someone is thinking of the children!

  7. Anonymous Coward


    they're just fed up of resetting the clock everytime they put the battery back in??

    /Mine's the clown suit; you see, they're looking for guys in camouflage...

  8. Tom

    String Phones

    Maybe they should switch to 2 cups and a piece of string ( could have hilarious videos), not only is this a tried and tested technology but is very hard to break into without either "callers" knowing its being "wire" tapped.

  9. Dave Ross

    @ Tom

    Yes, but it is increadibly easy to cut their lines of communication, a pair of scissors will do the trick...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo


    Clearly the Taliban are using iPhones and can't bear the thought of scratching their little beauties by prising open the cases to remove the batteries.

  11. Matthew Smith
    Dead Vulture

    If they left the batteries in...

    ... then they could be targetted with killer Nokia cells.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    iTaliban... (cont)

    I reckon it's the iPhone's data roaming charges that are killing them (ref lots of news stories this weekend about 'extortionate' roaming charges on an iphone). So they want the towers taken down so they can still play music without the phone trying to download emails.

    If only they'd bought iPod Touches instead, they could have avoided the whole sorry mess.

    Yep, the grotty leather one at the back with a beanie hat in the pocket

  13. Anonymous Coward

    It's clearly a parenting issue,

    they're afraid their daughters chat with their boyfriends all night long. Or maybe some neighbour has some really annoying ringtone ("Walk like an Egyptian", "Danger Zone" from Top Gun... the works), maybe the wife gets paramour calls at 11pm while he's out terroristing... there are ENDLESS possibilities why covertly operating fundamentalists would stand up with demands to their occupying forces. Next up they'll demand reruns of Dallas and that Micky D extends the McRib's Farewell Tour to Kabul. They're extremists, YOU NEVER KNOW.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Is it just me..

    or was:

    "Read less about it.."

    Actually the funniest part of the article?

    The whole thing was quite amusing, unless you happen to work in one of those offices, but for some reason... Maybe I just have a strange sense of humour :)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The more I see of "the Taliban sez this or that"

    The more I think about it, a lot of this stuff seems like there's fairly decent folk being manipulated by a few control freaks and religious nutters, intent purely and simply on twisting the religious beliefs of others to further their own power trips and self-glorifiation. I wonder how they'll lexplain that to the Prophet - peace be with him - when they next meet.

    OK, the motivation was different, but there's a huge sense of deja vu here: WW1 infantry being shoved "over the top" by the officers - "Orft you go Chaps, watch the machine guns and let Gerry have it: By Jove, I wish I was going with you, but someone's got to run the show, don't you know."

    Yeah, as if.

    Replace "go over the top and let the Gerries have it while I stay here organising" with "go blow yerself up and a few of the folk I don't like and I'll stay here and preach a bit - someone's got to. Oh, and while I'm at it, I'll get REALLY famous, too"

    All of a sudden it sounds really hollow.

    Eventually, we got away (at least a bit) from this attitude.

    I wonder how long before there's a backlash from folk who'd rather not have their beliefs manipulated.

    Mine's the camouflaged coat, but I can't see it.

  16. Morely Dotes

    On a good day...

    I'd have said the Taleban are a bunch of ignorant, superstitious, savage tribal barbarians with less knowledge of how technology works than one might reasonably expect of a fish.

    However, I'm not feeling that charitable today. Today I would say they are subhuman parasites which should be sterilized with the largest available dirty nukes.

  17. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  18. brym

    @ Ignorance

    While our armed forces might be equipped with the latest and greatest hi-tech kit, they would be even more ignorant than you claim the Taliban to be if they truely believed insurgents were technologically inept.

  19. pctechxp

    @s - so what about flight mode

    This is supposed to switch off the transceivers in the phone so its other functions can be used on an aircraft

    Same thing apply?

  20. Hans Mustermann

    Re: Ignorance

    While Taliban-bashing might have its merits, I'd point out that half the western world doesn't understand mobile telephones and generally technology either.

    At the most obvious end of the spectrum are the "electrosensitives"... which funnily enough (A) claim to detect a turned on phone from the other end of the hall, e.g., by promptly getting a headache, but (B) invariably fail to do so in a randomized double-blind test. Probably the most succintly illustrative of the phenomenon is the quote on, about a phone tower being installed and some people promptly proceeded to complain that they're getting sleep problems, headaches, etc. The Telekom commented that they're sorry, and can only imagine how bad it will be WHEN THEY ACTUALLY TURN IT ON.

    But picking on those is easy.

    The more insidious are the ones which aren't that vocal, but are equally clueless about how technology even works, and prone to believe in any kind of magic/placebo/mystical-eastern-shit/etc. Just look at all the miracle herbal pill pushers around you, and the large mass thinking that "evidence-based science" and "randomized double-blind test" are just some conspiracy to suppress the shamans.

    The fact is, at _least_ half the population doesn't understand the vast majority of technology or science. Heck, it doesn't even understand what science itself is, or how it works. And not only those who attack it. Funnily enough even some of the most rabid _defenders_ of science, don't understand the basic principles behind science, and treat it as basically religion.

    So, I dunno, to somewhat paraphrase the infamous Hanlon's Razor, I'd say: don't ascribe to religion (Islam or any other) what's perfectly explained by human stupidity.

    I mean, seriously. A nut proclaims the mobile networks to be the enemy, and a bunch of other nuts take it seriously. Do you have any problem seeing that happening in a secular western country? I think there are some very real examples thereof. In the west. No hookey religion needed.

    If we were in a civil war, and those nuts already had guns, do you think they'd think twice before using them on a cell phone tower?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "You are discussing a 600 year backward society founded on idiotic religious dogma. Of course they don't understand the technical issues."

    If their weapons were 600 years old they'd be a lot less trouble.

  22. John A Blackley

    Keep sneering

    Yep, those wacky Talibanis and their backward society. Better off with a piece of string and two tin cans. Wouldn't know what a cell tower is anyway, Yuk, yuk, yuk.

    You better believe that, if the Taliban are demanding that the towers be shut down regularly then they've got a reason for it. If you think Afghanis are that dumb, go talk to a Red Army helicopter pilot.

  23. StopthePropaganda

    the cell phone with camera means brutality is captured

    anyone can send images of the Holy Warriors of Islam at their "best"-slaughtering and brutalizing families and terrorizing the innocent to get their support-real time transmissions mean that even if the phone owner is killed, his/her experience still gets out.

    And as someone else said, it prevents calling for help.

    Where's the mass outrage for this little report, hmm? If a Republican even asked for a cell-phone ban inside one room for a Congressional hearing, there'd be a thousand articles screaming "Censorship!"

    But, instead, this gets little airtime, and leftists go back to trying to tell the world that the Talibani prisoners in Getmo are really misunderstood decent people instead of irrational violent killers bent on eliminating anyone-including their own countrymen-who don't belong to their little clan.

  24. Mike Moyle Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Have they considered...

    ...that if the civilian cell towers are shut down, then the only radio emissions in the hinterlands are likely to be theirs, making them big, glowing targets - perfect for turning into big, glowing craters...?

    Gotta love it!

    (Icon chosen because it's so fascinating to see someone give himself the Pollice Verso!)

  25. Christoph

    @ Anonymous Coward

    "a 600 year backward society founded on idiotic religious dogma"

    They have spent the last few hundred years being squabbled and fought over by various colonial powers. It's hardly surprising that their society is in a mess.

  26. Sampler

    Xray specs

    Could it be to do with the use of microwave imagery of houses used the mobile signal?

    Read somewhere they can use the distortions in the radio waves from mobile towers to see into buildings.

    Could all be bollocks though too.

  27. Paul Banacks


    Even with the cell sites off line, there's nothing stopping NATO forces from using their own mobile "cells" with directional antennae...

    ... So if true, there's possibly more to this than meets the eye.

  28. Dez Ware
    Black Helicopters

    Because the Taliban carry cell phones....

    and they move at night. That afforementioned standby mode means that effectively any Taliban tosser carrying a cell phone can be tracked by his cell phone registrations at each site. Hey you could even get some idea of how fast they are moving by calculating the time taken from one to another. Once you have ID'd some lurking hood in the darkenss with his cell phone turned on (or on stand by) how hard would it be to keep track of the spacker... They obviously can't teach their own to turn off the bloody celly properly so take another route...

    Cheaper than smart dust networks reporting back to metal storm area interdiction arrays via all those little black helicopters....

  29. J-Wick
    Paris Hilton


    You didn't just sneak in a reference to *that* site, did you?

    What people will do for money these days....

    Paris cos she's a perfect example...

  30. Charles Hammond

    Turn off all the towers

    Just turn off all telephone service.

    That solves the problem.

    Just send them straight to the stone age. Taliban dont need no stinking cell phones.

  31. Barry Rueger
    Thumb Up


    "The more I think about it, a lot of this stuff seems like there's fairly decent folk being manipulated by a few control freaks and religious nutters, intent purely and simply on twisting the religious beliefs of others to further their own power trips and self-glorifiation."

    Yes, an awful lot of what passes for "news" about the Taliban, and Muslim cultures in general, DOES seem to be generated by American fundamentalist Christians.

  32. P. Lee Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Feel the hate!

    Wow - lots of people don't like the taliban, despite the fact that all they've done for us is effectively suppress the drug trade! Its a good job they aren't in in our country. I wonder why we're in theirs? Better dead than red (or green), eh?

    I reckon that the real reason for this demand is that they want more sex. Having successfully got rid of TV the only thing standing between them and their nighttime activities are their friends calling up to chat.

    They could be tracked and bombed during the day or after 3am so I doubt that's the issue. Every spy film involves someone ditching a known tracking device to through pursuers off. I really hope the military aren't falling for that one! Alternatively, perhaps they feel the off-peak call-costs are just outrageous.

    Paris, cos she knows what the night is really for.

  33. Philip

    Something new to Islamo-seethe about...



  34. Sooner Boomer

    Go ahead, shut down the towers

    I have two words for you - "Rivet Joint". Go ahead an look it up....go ahead, I'll wait.

    (icon meaning "death" not "pirates")

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "They have spent the last few hundred years being squabbled and fought over by various colonial powers. It's hardly surprising that their society is in a mess."

    A little history would be in order. Afghanistan only dates back to 1747 as a distinct country. Far from being fought over by 'colonial powers' it was a crossroads for many peoples going back into prehistory, well before the whole idea of Colonialism came about. First were the Indo-Europeans, and later the Persians and Bactrians among many others. Afghanistan may have been the origin point for Zoroastrianism, and for some time was a Buddhist state. Islam only arrived in the Middle Ages.

    So to say it's the result of colonial powers in the past few hundred years making a mess of "their" society is simply repeating politically correct rhetoric. The society and who has peopled that society has been in turmoil almost from the beginning.

  36. Ben

    So next time...

    ...there's an article about some hypochondriac getting a headache and wanting a cell tower shut off I can respond with "Shutting off cell towers supports terrorism"?

  37. Steve Roper
    Black Helicopters

    After 9/11

    I thought the good ole US took care of the Taliban in 2002? Or is it that there's no oil in Afghanistan and they were sooo eager to be off to Iraq that they didn't stay to finish what they started? I still remember the propaganda the Yanks spewed about Osama hiding in Afghanistan, then when they realised that there was no oil there, suddenly he was hiding in Iraq. But that doesn't matter, since the Taliban are back in the US's good books for now. Somebody's got to look after all the poppy fields the US has got going over there to help fund their war efforts on the back of "illegal" drug sales!

  38. Maksim Rukov
    Black Helicopters

    @Keep sneering

    I'm sure the Red Army pilot (or ghost of) would be more annoyed at the interfering CIA who supplied the missiles (stingers, I believe) in the first place.

    I'm not too sure the CIA will be helping the Taliban out this time 'round.

  39. Steve Evans

    Sounds like a good opportunity here...

    1) Turn the light off on the tower, and disable the log on authentication. Taleban think it's safe to leave mobiles on and G Dubya tracks them down.

    2) (my personal favourite) Place mines round all the towers, and make the flashing light really noticeable.

  40. Anonymous Coward

    You've all missed the point

    This has absolutely nothing to do with technology and everything to do with 'hearts and minds'

    The Taliban are demanding the phone service be shut down simply to show they can tweak the tail of the crusaders.

    People will see that the Taliban is still a force to be reckoned with. Every evening they will be reminded of that when the phones are cut.

    The reason for choosing night-time shutdown is that the Taliban especially do not use mobile phones at night - for obvious reasons.

    The Taliban could equally well do some other disruptive and very public activity - such as killing people who sell western music in the markets - come to think of it, they do just that.


  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They should have just asked for an upgrade

    or a different talk plan.

    Doesn't western military tend to use the mobile networks often in preference to their own comms.

    I think they want to reduce the chatter and up their own scanning, there would be a higher signal to noise ratio with the other mobiles turned off, make it easier to intercept military communications.

    Though you would hope they would be using encrypted channels, but to be honest I bet that hope is very misplaced when it comes to the UK government and technology.

    It could just be posturing, misdirection, or designed to increase local tensions - so whilst the troops are there you can text after 5pm. If they wanted to transmit it would be safer within the noise of normal comms.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    @s and @Dez Ware

    Just for the record - there is no 'standby mode' on a (normal) GSM, or UMTS capable mobile phone.

    When you 'turn the phone off', it pages the network to ask the VLR to deregister it so that the network knows that the handset is actually turned off, not just out of coverage. Then the phone /really/ turns off.

    If the phone actually went into standby and continued to react to location requests and paging, a) you would still receive calls, b) the battery would drain much quicker than when it is really off c) the [paranoid*] airlines would ask you to remove the battery from the phone before you got onto the plane.

    * if phones really cause major problems on aircraft flights, why don't they ask you to remove the battery...

  43. J
    Black Helicopters

    @AC 1

    "You are discussing a 600 year backward society founded on idiotic religious dogma. Of course they don't understand the technical issues."

    Well, I don't know... I can't believe the countless people I've seen who are highly trained in the most complicate technology, yet still believe Bronze Age BS and that some "holy" book is completely right no matter what... (although they always practice the "holy book buffet", pick and choose approach)

    The human brain's power to compartmentalize is unbelievably vast, so I wouldn't write the Taliban off as ignoramuses regarding sci/tech issues too quickly.

    (helicopter for the Russian chaps mentioned above)

  44. Andy Worth


    I agree with J, you try and stick them all in a little box marked "backwards religious nut" but get a big FAIL for your efforts.

    One could argue that ANY religious dogma is ridiculous and yet you choose to pick on one specific religion. One in fact that is many years older than Christianity. One thing you can guarantee is that with any religion there will always be sects that practice their own version and make their own interpretations of things. For example, look at all the "christian" churches that have sprung up with their own version, separating from the mainstream religion.

    The Taliban are just another group that use religion as an excuse for violence. It's not a new thing and I'm sure they won't be the last.

  45. ED Stroudley

    Anon Coward

    On a signal to noise ratio AC comes out pretty high where e'er he posts.

    "The Taliban are demanding the phone service be shut down simply to show they can tweak the tail of the crusaders."

    The whole story based on a word in the BBC's ear who have kindly circulated the message with the desired effect on the audience both within the country and in a watching world.

    You don't need a mobile to get the word out when the BBC are so much more effective.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...older than Christianity...

    What? Islam? I don't *think* so. Or are you referring to the fact that the Taleban are driven less by Islam-as-the-Prophet-wrote than by the ancient tribal customs that the Islamic missionaries absorbed into the teachings in order to gain acceptance for their Word (like early Christian missionaries did to W. European pagan traditions, but with less discrimination)?

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    For the really worried lot...

    CellDAR may be in use (although who told the Taliban that gem). CellDAR uses the 900-1800MHz band radiation (from cell towers) to track targets in cities and areas where radar is unreliable (mountains, valleys, Afghanistan, etc). If stories are to be believed, this technology has the potential to track people inside buildings.

    As far as im aware, you position a truck within the ranges of a couple of cell towers and capture all the emissions from around you (not just the cell towers). Then when something moves, the blanket of reflected emissions change and with some fancy software.... hey a target. So in effect its more like passive sonar, but celldar sounds cooler.

    If you have something to hide, be afraid, be very AFRAID!!

  48. Mark

    @Dez Ware

    Why do they have to take their phones out with them when they're on the job? If the towers are off, they can't talk to each other. And if they're using pico cells, have they not heard of "traffic analysis" and ANY use of a pico cell can be investigated far more simply than a normal operable cell (that could be someone txting hot young chicks).

    I suspect it's just willy-waving. "look at us! we will bomb you! U fearz uz!!!".

  49. Andy

    Call their bluff

    Turn the masts off all the time. See if they threaten to blow them up if they don't turn them back on during the day. No more Taliban rigging the X Factor votes - that'll show 'em.

    Mines the bright orange coat. Come near me and you'll get Tango'd

  50. Chris Williams

    Idiotic religious dogma?

    > "You are discussing a 600 year backward society founded on idiotic religious dogma. Of course they don't understand the technical issues."

    That's a ridiculous thing to say.

    Although idiotic religious dogma abounds, the country was certainly not founded on it; quite the opposite, in fact. It's a very new phenomenon to have the dynastic powers that be claim direction from god and to lean somewhat towards the dogmatic.

    I don't know about Afghanistan though.

  51. Stewart Sinclair

    The rising tide

    There has been a large range of theories put forward on this list for the reported Taliban policy on cell phones some of which would sound rather "spooky" to those not deeply familiar with cell technology themselves.

    But what seems to be overlooked by most is that the Taliban insurgency is a rising tide. As all insurgencies are, it is quite heterogeneous but the requirements of shear survival against the most technically sophisticated Armed forces in the world are pushing it into greater technical sophistication and professionalism. In this case, they may simple be testing their knowledge of and ability to use the new technology.

    One thing is clear. The longer this war goes on the more professional and more sophisticated they will become. Soon they will be an easy match for the Pakistani army and then when NATO/US leave through the usual war weariness a large chunk of Pakistan (the Pushtu speaking areas for one) will be taken out - further destabilizing an already shaky nuclear power.

    Nuclear Armageddon by a failing regime of military fanatics anyone?

  52. lglethal Silver badge

    @ Chris Williams

    I'd hardly say that leaders claiming to be guided by God(s) is a new thing. The pope claims divine guidance, the middle age kings of england (as head of the church of england) claimed divine guidance, the roman emperor's claimed divine guidance, the egyptian pharoahs claimed to be divine, televengelist claim divine guidance.

    It's nothing new to claim your leadership is inspired and ordained by a higher power. In fact god is inspiring you to send the sum of $10,000 to my bank in Nigeria to help me obtain the millions from my great uncle Wombossi's bank account, which i will happily share with you once it has cleared...

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