Taliban militants threatened Monday to blow up telecom towers across Afghanistan if mobile phone companies do not switch off their signals for 10 hours starting at dusk.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujaheed said the U.S. and other foreign troops in the country are using mobile phone signals to track down the insurgents and launch attacks against them.
The Taliban have "decided to give a three-day deadline to all mobile phone companies to stop their signals from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. in order to stop the enemies from getting intelligence through mobile phones and to stop Taliban and civilian casualties," Mujaheed told the Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location.
"If those companies do not stop their signal within three days, the Taliban will target their towers and their offices," he said.
There are four mobile phone operators in Afghanistan, but employees at the companies would not immediately comment.
Mobile phones were introduced to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. They have become the principal means of communication and one of the fastest-growing and most profitable sectors in the country's economy.
Militants have threatened mobile phone companies in the past, accusing them of collusion with the U.S. and other foreign military forces.
Communications experts say the U.S. military has the ability, using satellites and other means, to pick up cellphone signals without the phone company's help. Cellphones periodically send signals to the network even when they are not making calls.
Mujaheed said the Taliban have contacted all the companies, but none has agreed to the militants' demands. His claim could not be independently verified.