February 28, 2008

Taliban highlights militants' mobile tracking fear

talin1.jpeg A Taliban threat to attack Afghan telecoms companies is the latest sign of paranoia from militants who fear their mobile phones will betray their hiding places. Reuters reports.

"The Islamist militia on Monday gave mobile operators a three-day ultimatum to shut down their networks at night or face attacks on their towers and offices.

It issued the demand because "the occupying forces stationed in Afghanistan usually at night use mobile phones for espionage to track down the mujahideen," a Taliban spokesman told Reuters.

The threat comes several months after publication on the Internet of a "security encyclopedia" for militant Islamists which urges strict precautions when using mobiles. It even recommends a particular handset model it says is hard for the enemy to open to implant a bugging device.

Howard Melamed, chief executive of U.S.-based cellular communications group CellAntenna, said the Taliban threat reflected a lack of understanding of the technology.

"Common sense would dictate: turn your phone off and it's OK," he told Reuters. "I have a feeling they're not really in tune too much with this kind of technology."

Analysts believe that senior leaders of al Qaeda do not use either mobile or satellite phones at all in order to avoid detection, instead relying on people to carry messages by word of mouth."

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