Intelligence: Satellite Phones as Weapons


December26, 2006: The recent death of Taliban senior commander Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani, was apparently the result of British and American intelligence troops connecting Osmani to a specific satellite phone, and then using that to locate Osmani and kill him with a smart bomb. A British electronic reconnaissance aircraft monitored satellite telephone traffic over the area, so that when Osmani made a call, his location was quickly found and tracked.

Taliban and al Qaeda members are well aware of the risks of using cell or satellite phones. But they are greatly restricted if they do not use wireless communications, and they try to mitigate the danger by talking in code words, and changing phones frequently. If the bad guys get sloppy with the codes, or changing phones, they will get nailed, like Osmani did. Often, identifying a terrorist phone will not lead to a smart bomb attack, but to monitoring the communications in order to obtain more information. But for major players like Osmani (the number three guy in the Taliban hierarchy) getting made was a death sentence.


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