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Tajik Firefighters Angered By False Emergency Calls From Afghanistan

Tajikstan's mobile phone companies have cheaper tariffs than Afghan firms, which is why so many Afghans buy Tajik SIM cards.
KHORUGH, Tajikistan -- Firefighters in eastern Tajikistan are complaining that they are receiving false emergency calls made from neighboring Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Mobile phone operators in Tajikistan's Badakhshan Autonomous Province have terminated service to 30 users who have repeatedly made false emergency calls to the local fire brigade.

Anvar Sholangarov, deputy head of the Khorugh city firefighting service, said most such calls are made by children in neighboring Afghanistan using Tajik Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards.

Sholangarov said the service receives up to 75 false emergency calls every day. He said that calls to the emergency number (01) are free, which is why some people consider it a joke to call and report nonexistent fires. He said one subscriber once made 12 such calls within four minutes.

Sholangarov said firefighters always verify the information received from callers using mobile phones, because in most cases the alarm is false.

He said his men have never yet mistaken a real fire for a false alarm, but the danger they may do so exists. Sholangarov added that such "crazy jokes" are making firefighters angry.

Nurali Tolibek, who has a store in Khorugh selling mobile phones, told RFE/RL that buyers of SIM cards have to register their name and address beforehand, so it is not difficult to identify and punish people who make false emergency calls.

He said many people in Afghanistan ask their relatives in Tajikistan to buy them Tajik SIM cards.

Saidbek from Afghanistan's Shughnon district explained that Tajik mobile phone companies' tariffs are cheaper than in Afghanistan, which is why Afghans buy Tajik SIM cards.

Najbullah, a resident of Afghanistan visiting Badakhshan, told RFE/RL that sometimes children use mobile phones when their relatives leave them unattended, and perhaps it is calls like these that firefighters are complaining about.

Nisor Ahmadi, an Afghan diplomat in Khorugh, said he hopes that fake emergency calls or similar abuses of mobile phones will not lead to the suspension of mobile phone services between the two countries.