Posted by: Christian | April 3, 2008

Extortion, Mobile Phones and Fund-Raising

Much has been written about the “Taliban” attacks on mobile phone infrastructure. Now we have some further insight into how this operation works. This document is just brilliant:

taliban mobile

The gist of it is:

“Dearest brother! Peace be upon you and may God have mercy on you and provide with with infinite blessings! Also, your mobile phone company needs to wire money to my account ASAP because I’m sitting by one of your towers with a bunch of old Czech land mines strapped around the expensive looking stuff. So gimme my money. My number is 077 5810513.


Some random extortionist Uh, I mean The Taliban.”

The actual translation can be read in this Barnett Rubin article.

Rubin commented:

I have been told that Taliban (or people claiming to represent them) sometimes call up mobile phone companies and claim that they are right at a tower with explosives, which they will detonate unless money is immediately transferred to their mobile phone. This is a new technology that enables migrant workers to send cash home without going through either a hawala or Western Union.

Pic: “Can you hear me now?”

How much of the extortion money is going towards Taliban operations and how much towards some random rural mafioso’s pocket? Who knows?

There is much contradiction in the way the issue has been presented. Do the Taliban want to destroy mobile phone towers because they are paranoid about being tracked or do they wish to make money off off protection rackets? And are all (or even a majority) or parties involved actually “Taliban?” I would venture a guess that once the process is seen as profitable you will have multiple parties involved in extorting the mobile phone companies. And will they behave like a traditional old-school American mafia types and just skim a decent percentage or will they go too far and demand an amount so large as to permanently scare off the mobile phone companies?

Further insight can be had here.


  1. I am really enjoying your blog. It is a great insight into the real situation on the ground and corresponds with my own experience.


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