KABUL -- The 119 Police Call Centre has seen a surge of activity following a radio and television advertisement that encourages citizens to co-operate with security forces and report suspicious behaviour.
The media campaign rankled Taliban militants, prompting them to warn the Afghan media to stop airing the announcement, saying it "denounces the Taliban and instigates the public against them".
But rather than bow to Taliban threats, Afghan media kept airing the ads and Afghans responded by increasing co-operation with security forces.
"The 119 Police Call Centre is a robust and effective bridge between civilians and the police," said Gen. Mustafa Nooristani, chief of the 119 Police Directorate. "The Taliban's threats haven't lowered civilians' level of co-operation with police, but in reality, their reporting of suspicious activities has increased."
"We have seen a surge in calls during the current month," he said.
Importance of citizen co-operation
The 119 Police Call Centre was established 10 years ago, and since then citizens have reported unlawful behaviour of police, human rights abuses, crimes, suspicious activities and security incidents, Nooristani said.
"The 119 Police Call Centre operates around the clock, and when someone reports something, police immediately respond in co-ordination with other security forces," he said.
"Since the centre started operation, it has recorded more than 183,000 reports and police responded to them," Nooristani said. "Thanks to civilians' tips, security forces have neutralised more than 40,000 mines and explosive devices from terrorists and arrested a large number of [potential] suicide attackers."
"The 119 Police Call Centre is the easiest way for citizens to notify police," he added. "Since the inception of the call centre, security forces have made numerous achievements in arresting terrorists, criminals, kidnappers, drug traffickers and unofficial armed groups."
"As a result of public support of the 119 Police Call Centre, security forces have seized vehicles loaded with explosives and 162 bags of aluminum nitrate to be used for terrorist activities," he said. "They were also able to arrest a number of Taliban as they were planting land mines."
"Civilians co-operate with their security forces from everywhere in the country and even from those parts that are under the Taliban's control," Nooristani said.
A threat to Taliban activities
The Taliban consider citizens' increased co-operation with security forces a threat to their destructive activities, according to analysts and activists.
"The Taliban fear public co-operation with the security forces and consider it a big threat to themselves and their activities," said Daud Kalakani, a former member of the Wolesi Jirga (lower chamber of parliament). "Therefore, they have threatened the media outlets to stop airing those ads that encourage civilians to help their security forces."
"Our people have realised that the Taliban fight against them and public interests because every day they see that the Taliban's suicide attacks and bombings kill civilians and destroy schools and hospitals," said Nabi Mesdaq, a Kabul-based political analyst.
"Civilians co-operate with the security forces to save themselves and protect their homes, schools and health facilities," he said.
"The Taliban has warned the media outlets because the public calls 119 and help the security forces to stop [the Taliban's] destructive activities and thwart their suicide attacks and bombings," Mesdaq said.
"Public co-operation with the security forces has created an obstacle to the Taliban's destructive plans," said Farhad Hashemi, a civil society activist in Kabul.
"Because of this reality, the group is warning the media in order to stop public co-operation with the security forces, but Afghans are now convinced that the Taliban and their activities kill the innocent and slow growth and development in their villages," he said.
"No threat can change public intention to continue co-operating with the security forces," he added.
Call 119 to report suspicious activity
"Last year, three or four individuals rented a house in our village," said Abasin, a 29-year-old resident of Sarobi District, Kabul Province.
"The visitors to the house looked suspicious to us," he said. "I had seen the 119 number on TV ads that encouraged viewers to call if they see suspicious individuals, so I called 119."
"After the security forces arrested them [the renters], we found out that they were members of the Taliban who intended to launch a suicide attack," Abasin added.
"If I see suspicious individuals or activities in the future, I will definitely report them," he said.