MTN and Airtel are reporting that their mobile phone masts are coming under attack from gunmen in northern Nigeria who may be trying to elude police trackers through their phones.
A Reuters reporter said he saw 10 masts burned to the ground on Wednesday morning in the northern Nigerian cities of Kano and Maiduguri where Islamists are waging a low-level insurgency against the Goodluck Jonathan government.
Destruction of the phone masts disrupted service for local residents on their mobiles.
Similarly, in Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city, men on motorbikes destroyed MTN and Airtel mobile phone masts in the early hours of Wednesday, a policeman told Reuters, asking not to be named. He said Boko Haram was suspected to be behind the attack.
"We confirm that like all the other major telcos, some of MTN’s installations in northern Nigeria have been damaged by unknown persons," spokeswoman Funmilayo Omogbenigun said.
"All the relevant government security agencies have been informed and we are receiving their full co-operation."
A police spokesman in Kano and Maiduguri declined to comment, saying investigations were ongoing. Airtel was not immediately available for comment.
However, the Joint Task Force spokesperson, Lt. Col Musa Sagir stated that the JTF in Maiduguri has observed an evolution of new methods of criminal activities by Boko Haram terrorists, he explained that the sect has mutated in terrorists activities by including the commencement of large scale destruction of GSM towers in the state. He said the JTF has received information that the sect carried out bombing of masts across Borno state in the last few days.
Boko Haram, which has killed hundreds this year in the largely-Muslim north, has not claimed responsibility for the phone mast burnings. The sect usually attacks government, security or sectarian targets.