SRINAGAR - Dozens of communications towers have been shut down in an area of Indian-Held Kashmir after a string of attacks and threats by the armed men, who say cell phone services are being used to target their members.

Armed men have also threatened local people, and in the past five days shot dead one man who was working at a mobile phone shop in the Sopore area and another man who had a cell phone tower installed on his property, police said. Three other people were injured in attacks.

More than 50 towers in the Sopore area of northern Held Kashmir have been taken out of service, nearly shutting down public communications in the vicinity, police said.

“The cellular services are down and we are trying to restore them in a couple of days,” SJM Gillani, police chief for the Held Kashmir region, told Reuters.

Earlier this month, a previously unknown group called Lashkar-e-Islam warned people working for or with telecoms companies to stop, saying that cell phone services were being used to target members of the group.

Officials have expressed concerns that the violent targeting of something as ubiquitous as cell phone usage could create panic in the valley, a heavily militarised region.

“(The militants) have challenged the writ of the government,” a senior security officer told Reuters. Companies affected include Aircel, a unit of Malaysia’s Maxis Communications Bhd, Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance Communications and Idea Cellular, police said. Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance declined to comment, while the other companies could not immediately be reached for comment.

Last week, posters bearing the name of Lashkar-e-Islam appeared in the Sopore area, demanding phone companies shut down their operations. “Due to these cellphone companies, our commanders and the armed brothers have been arrested or killed,” read one poster.

“We warn all the people associated with the telecom companies to stop working for them and tower site owners to dismantle the towers. We also warn shopkeepers who recharge cell phones to stop it. If not, they will be killed,” it said.

In the latest incident a man who had rented out part of his property to a tower was shot and critically injured in the town of Pattan.