'Gooooood mornin' Afghanistan!' US fights Taliban on airwaves | world | Hindustan Times
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'Gooooood mornin' Afghanistan!' US fights Taliban on airwaves

world Updated: Oct 06, 2009 08:41 IST

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"You're listening to W.IED 102.5 FM 'the bomb'," joked Staff Sergeant Todd Bowers as he slotted another cassette of religious chants into his portable radio station.

While most of the battles fought by US Marines in restive Farah province are against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and guns, Bowers, 30, is fighting a war of words to win the hearts and minds of people in rural western Afghanistan.

The radio station, a portable deck and 45-foot (14-metre) antennae at the military base in Golestan, began as a chance to give local villagers a taste of the music they were banned from hearing under the hardline Taliban rule.

"Ever since word got out, I've had people bringing me cassettes. To have this music now has such a strong impact on the people," said Bowers, who heads the Marines' civil affairs team.

"When I drive through the valleys and play local Pashtu music on the loud speaker, people out in the village are singing and dancing. A lot can be said for music changing things."

The station, which goes on air at 5:00 am and ends at 11:00 pm each day with the Afghan national anthem, takes song requests amid a schedule of prayer chants and official messages from the government and coalition forces.

But this week the station took on greater importance for the US Marines after Taliban insurgents launched their own propaganda drive after accusing them of defiling a mosque in nearby Bakwa.

Militants then fomented a riot involving about 200 protesters in Delaram, 36 kilometres (22 miles) from Golestan. Tyres were burnt in the street and rocks were thrown at Marines and Afghan soldiers, while rumours continued to escalate.

Troops were later accused of killing about 50 people during the ruckus, including a baby, but no evidence was found.