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Google blocks Afghan gov't email accounts as Taliban seek retribution

Google blocks Afghan govt email accounts as Taliban seek retribution

Image by Zabi Karimi/Associated Press

Washington: Google has blocked an unspecified number of email accounts belonging to the Afghanistan government following the Taliban takeover, a source told Reuters.

The report comes amid concerns growing over how the Taliban might seek retribution towards those who had worked with the US government.

In a statement on Friday, Alphabet's Google stopped short of confirming that Afghan government accounts were being locked down, saying that the company was monitoring the situation in Afghanistan and "taking temporary actions to secure relevant accounts."

One employee of the former government has told Reuters the Taliban are seeking to acquire former officials' emails.

Late last month the employee said that the Taliban had asked him to preserve the data held on the servers of the ministry he used to work for.

"If I do so, then they will get access to the data and official communications of the previous ministry leadership," the employee said.

The employee said he did not comply and has since gone into hiding.

Meanwhile, publicly available mail exchanger records show that some two dozen Afghan government bodies used Google's servers to handle official emails, including the ministries of finance, industry, higher education, and mines. Afghanistan's office of the presidential protocol also used Google, according to the records, as did some local government bodies.

Commandeering government databases and emails could provide information about employees of the former administration, ex-ministers, government contractors, tribal allies and foreign partners.

Mail exchanger records show that Microsoft Corp's email services were also used by several Afghan government agencies, including the ministry of foreign affairs and the presidency. But it isn't clear what steps if any, the software firm is taking to prevent data from falling into the hands of the Taliban. Microsoft declined to comment.

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