Despite the turmoil in Afghanistan, which has been the Taliban Islamic fundamentalist group seize power following the withdrawal of US troops, MTN Group continues to operate its mobile network in the war-torn Middle Eastern country.
Although MTN has previously announced that it is planning to exit Afghanistan – and the entire Middle East region – in the “medium term” to focus on its pan-African operations, the group said on Tuesday that its network in the country remains operational. However, many of its employees are working “remotely” given the situation on the ground.
“In Afghanistan, we have 356 employees, many of whom are working remotely. Our network continues to provide services to all our 6.3 million subscribers in the country,” said Nompilo Morafo, MTN group executive for corporate affairs and sustainability in an e-mail.
The Afghanistan operation is wholly owned by MTN Group and it has about 40% market share, making it the country’s biggest telecommunications operator.
It has proved a difficult market for MTN, not least because it is being sued in the US over allegations that it paid protection money to the Taliban, endangering the lives of American servicemen and women.
Moved to dismiss
Earlier this month, however, a US judge moved to dismiss the class-action lawsuit, which was filed in December 2019. The suit was filed in a Washington, DC court on behalf of American service members and civilians, and their families, who were killed or wounded in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2017.
MTN filed papers requesting that the US court dismiss the civil case, which had asserted claims for civil monetary relief under the US Anti-Terrorism Act. MTN asked that the court dismiss the complaint on the basis that it lacks jurisdiction (MTN does not operate in the US) and that the complaint does not allege any conduct that violated the Anti-Terrorism Act.
On 30 July, the magistrate judge to whom the case had been referred made a recommendation to the district judge presiding over the case to grant the motion to dismiss for all defendants in the case. “The magistrate judge further concluded that the court did not have jurisdiction over MTN defendants,” the group said.
It said it conducts its business in a “responsible and compliant manner in all its territories and will continue to defend its position where necessary”.
The complaint alleged that several Western businesses supported the Taliban by making payments to ensure the protection of their infrastructure — in MTN’s case, its cellphone towers. — © 2021 NewsCentral Media