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MTN accused of terror support

MTN has been included in a lawsuit filed in the United States on behalf of Americans killed or wounded in Afghanistan, accusing it of making payments to the Taliban.

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MTN has issued a statement revealing that it is included in a complaint for violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on 27 December 2019.

The complaint was filed on behalf of American service members and civilians, and their families, who were killed or wounded in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2017.

MTN said in the statement: “The Complaint alleges that several Western businesses supported the Taliban by, inter alia, making payments to ensure the protection of their infrastructure. The defendants named in the complaint are six different groups one of which is MTN and certain of its subsidiary companies including MTN Afghanistan.”

MTN says it is reviewing the details of the report and is consulting its advisers. However, it says, it “remains of the view that it conducts its business in a responsible and compliant manner in all its territories and so intends to defend its position where necessary”.

According to Wikipedia, there were about 32-million mobile phone subscribers in Afghanistan in 2016, with the first two carriers having been US-based Afghan Wireless, and Roshan.

A duopoly agreement between these carriers and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) meant that no mobile operator could enter the Afghan telecom market until July 2006. The third GSM license was awarded to Areeba, a subsidiary of Lebanese firm Investcom, in September 2005 for a period of 15 years. MTN acquired Investcom for $5.53-billion in 2007, and Areeba was renamed MTN Afghanistan. In the last quarter of 2018, it reported having 6,257-million subscribers.

According to National Public Radio in the United States, the lawsuit states that the Taliban in 2005 began systematically approaching international businesses operating in Afghanistan, and offered them a choice: pay up, or else. 

“Defendants paid the Taliban to leave them alone,” the suit alleges. “The payments saved Defendants money: it was cheaper to buy off the Taliban than it would have been to invest in the security necessary to mitigate the terrorists’ threats.”

The Complaint includes the following detail: “Specifically, the Taliban asked MTN and its competitors to “pay monthly protection fees in each province, or face having their transmission towers attacked.”  The going rate was “usually in the range of $2,000 per tower, per month, but it depends on who controls the zone around each tower.” In some areas, MTN made payments to local Taliban commanders in exchange for protection from its fighters. In others – such as Helmand and Kandahar – MTN operated in a Taliban-controlled environment in which protection “payments must go directly to Quetta.”

MTN has also been accused of deactivating its cellular towers at night at the request of the Taliban, “which believed US forces were using the cellular networks to track insurgents”. 

The Complaint includes MTN Group, MTN Afghanistan and MTN Dubai. The full document can be viewed here: https://afghanistan.terrorismcase.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/2019-12-27-001-COMPLAINT.pdf

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South Africa hit by slow Internet

Internet service providers are warning customers of an Internet outage across South Africa because of cable breaks on international connectivity cables, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Got slow Internet connectivity? So does the rest of South Africa.

The latest we’ve heard is an alert from Internet service provider Webafrica is that there are major outages across all South African Internet providers. The cause is due to cable breaks on the WACS and SAT3 systems, which connect South Africa to the rest of the world.

WACS runs from Yzerfontein in the Western Cape, up the West Coast of Africa and terminates in the United Kingdom, while SAT3 runs from Melkbosstrand also in the Western Cape, up the West Coast and terminates in Portugal and Spain. Alternative cables include ACE (Africa Coast to Europe), which also runs up the West Coast. The SEACOM cable runs from South Africa, up the East Coast of Africa, terminating in both London and Dubai. The EASSy cable also runs from South Africa, up the East Coast, terminating in Sudan, from where it connects to other cables.

As a result, using international websites and services, which include VPNs (virtual private networks) may result in latency – decreased speeds and response times.

Not all hope is lost, though. All international traffic is being redirected via alternative cable routes. Although this form of redundancy should mean no loss in access speeds, the complexity of interconnections between service providers, and delays in switching over, result in decreased speeds and increased latency. Packet loss is likely to affect those using voice and video communication services, so expect scratchy and grainy communications.

Downdetector, which tracks reports of outages, has reflected a spike in reports of outages at Afrihost since 10.30am today (16 January), peaking at 3pm. Telkom saw an even more pronounced spike over the same period, also peaking at 3pm.

Vodacom and MTN seem to have been marginally affected, suggesting they rely less on the affected cables. Internet Solutions has seen only a handful of reports all day.


Update (10:30 am, 17 Jan): Infrastructure provider, Openserve, has confirmed that it had been liaising with both the WACS and SAT3/WASC undersea cable consortiums in order to determine the loss of service on both submarine cable systems.


The unusual and simultaneous dual cable break has resulted in customers, that are connected to Openserve’s global capacity clients, experiencing reduced speed on international browsing. International voice calling and mobile roaming have also been impacted. 

Through continuous liaison with the technical fault investigation teams of both cable consortiums, Openserve has ascertained that the SAT3/WASC break is in the Libreville, Gabon vicinity and that the WACS breakpoint is in the vicinity of Luanda, Angola.


Update (11:30 am, 21 Jan): The ship that is being sent out to repair the cable was unable to leave the port this weekend, due to bad weather. According to the SA National Research and Education Network (SANREN): “The weather situation in Cape Town has improved and the port reopened. The cable vessel expects to shift to the cable depot quay.”

The ship is expected to take a few days to get to the repair site. SANREN also said in a tweet that it may take another week to repair the cable.

Update (3:00 pm, 21 Jan): Openserve has received confirmation this morning, from the Chief of Mission aboard the vessel, that the ship is being loaded with submarine-rated optic fibre cable, repeaters, all test gear and jointing kits.

Once the loading is concluded, the vessel will depart to the break location to undertake the repair.  The Chief of Mission anticipates that all loading will be completed by the evening of Wednesday, 22 January, should all go according to plan. 


Gadget will update this article on developments of the connectivity being restored.

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DJI reveals Mavic Mini drone

At 249 grams, DJI turns serious drone photography and videography into light work with its new Mavic Mini.

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DJI, the global leader in civilian drones and aerial imaging technology, says it is opening a new frontier in drone possibilities. Today it launches the DJI Mavic Mini, an ultra-light folding drone designed to be the everyday FlyCam. Weighing 249 grams, Mavic Mini is highly-portable, designed for safety and a good starting point for those who want to experience the fun of flying drones.

The Mavic Mini joins DJI’s series of folding Mavic drones, from the original Mavic Pro through Mavic Air and Mavic 2, packs professional-quality drone features into the lightest possible frame. That puts Mavic Mini in the safest drone category, which in many areas exempts it from regulations that apply to other, heavier drones. That said, drone pilots must always understand and follow local laws and regulations.

Mavic Mini’s high-grade camera captures footage in high definition, and its new DJI Fly app’s suite of creative features can transform photos and videos into professional-quality productions. Its stable flight performance provides more opportunities to explore using one of the longest flight times for a drone of its size.

“To design a drone as lightweight, compact yet capable as Mavic Mini was one of the most challenging projects we’ve ever tackled at DJI,” says Roger Luo, president of DJI. “Distilling top-of-the-line features into a palm-of-your-hand drone is the culmination of years of work, and we are ecstatic to bring a new class of drone to the DJI lineup. Mavic Mini’s long flight time, ultra-light weight and high-quality camera makes it DJI’s everyday drone–and most importantly, it’s easy to fly, no matter your experience level with drones.”

It is the smallest and lightest DJI drone has made, and is a great creative tool for life’s daily adventures, which is useful for capturing views from another perspective. Mavic Mini incorporates DJI’s renowned safety technology, including geofencing to help drone pilots avoid restricted areas; AeroScope remote identification to help protect sensitive locations; built-in altitude limits; and automatic return to the launch point if the drone loses connection to the controller or reaches critically low battery level.

The mini drone is the first DJI drone to weigh below 250 grams, which aviation regulators around the world consider to be the safest category for drone flight. In many countries, drones below 250 grams are considered safe, but users should consult their country’s drone laws and regulations to learn more about what they can do with their Mavic Mini.

Created to be the drone for everyone, especially those new to drones, DJI says the Mavic Mini is simple to operate and fly using the dedicated remote controller. It packs with up to 30 minutes of flight time, giving users more time to explore and capture content. 
A Wi-Fi transmission signal [[1]] delivers stable control and an HD live feed for a clear, confident flying experience. GPS receivers and downward visual sensors detect the ground below Mavic Mini, enabling precise hovering, stable flying and accurate landing both indoors and out.

Mavic Mini offers pilots the ability to capture high-quality footage including 2.7K video at 30fps, 1080p at 60 frames per second, or 12-megapixel photographs using the 1/2.3-inch sensor. A three-axis motorized gimbal supports and stabilizes the camera, ensuring the footage is smooth and cinematic.

It features the following shooting modes:

  • Rocket – Mavic Mini flies straight up into the air with the camera pointing downward following your subject. Set a height limit of up to 36 metres.
  • Circle – Mavic Mini will circle around your subject at a constant altitude and distance.
  • Dronie – Mavic Mini flies backward and upward, with the camera tracking your subject. Set a height limit of up to 36 metres.
  • Helix – Mavic Mini flies upward and away, spiralling around your subject. Set a height limit of up to 36 metres.

Price and Availability

Mavic Mini will be available in the second half of November at authorized retailers and partners. Mavic Mini will come in two purchase options, the standard version which includes Mavic Mini, remote controller, one battery, extra propellers and all necessary tools and wires for R7199. 

The Mavic Mini Fly More Combo which includes all of the components from the standard version with the addition of the 360° Propeller Cage, Two-Way charging Hub, three batteries in total, three sets of extra propellers and a carrying case for the price of R9199. 

For additional information on both Mavic Mini and its accessories, please visit: www.dji.com/mavic-mini

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