MTN Group has asked a US court to dismiss a case filed against it last December, in which it’s alleged the South African-headquartered telecommunications operator paid protection money to the Taliban in Afghanistan, endangering the lives of US servicemen and women.
The suit was filed in a Washington, DC court on 27 December 2019 on behalf of American service members and civilians, and their families, who were killed or wounded in the troubled Middle Eastern country between 2009 and 2017.
The complaint alleged that several Western businesses supported the Taliban by making payments to ensure the protection of their infrastructure — in MTN’s case, it’s cellphone towers. The Taliban is an Islamic fundamentalist group waging a religious war, of jihad, in Afghanistan.
“The firms allegedly used a network of subcontractors and private security groups to transfer cash to Taliban agents, and in some cases dole out salaries to certain Taliban ‘guards’ between 2006 and 2014, while the group was allying with al-Qaeda and waging a violent campaign against US forces and their allies”, CNN reported at the time, quoting the details of the suit.
“Defendants decided that buying off the terrorists was the most efficient way to operate their businesses while managing their own security risks — even though doing so jeopardised other American lives,” the lawsuit said.
MTN has now filed a “motion to dismiss” the matter with the US court.
“MTN requested the court to end the lawsuit and grant a judgment in MTN’s favour for two independent reasons: because the court lacks jurisdiction over MTN, which does not operate in the US, and because the complaint does not allege any conduct by MTN that would have violated the Anti-Terrorism Act,” the group said in a statement early on Thursday.
“Under US law and procedures, MTN is not permitted at this stage of the lawsuit to challenge or contest the factual allegations made against the company, so the motion to dismiss focuses on the lack of jurisdiction and the legal insufficiency of the claims,” it said.
“MTN has deep sympathy for those who have been injured or lost loved ones as a result of the tragic conflict in Afghanistan. As stated in the motion to dismiss, however, ‘the MTN defendants are not the extremists that caused plaintiffs’ tragic losses and injuries’. To the contrary, MTN Afghanistan has been lauded by the World Bank for expanding telecoms services to the impoverished people of Afghanistan and has itself been a target of violence in the devastating conflict in that war-torn country. Put simply, the plaintiffs have sued the wrong defendants in the wrong court based on insufficient allegations.”
MTN said it conducts its business “in a responsible and compliant manner in all its territories and, as reflected in the motion to dismiss, intends to defend its position accordingly”. — © 2020 NewsCentral Media