Egypt cut off ahead of major protest

Friday, January 28, 2011

CAIRO - Telecommunications in Egypt were curtailed Friday ahead of a major anti-government protest, with internet sites blocked and Egyptians unable to send text messages from their mobile phones.

Outsiders were experiencing difficulties connecting to landline numbers in Cairo, where hundreds of thousands of people were expected to take part in a demonstration after the traditional Friday prayers.

Only some anti-government websites with servers located abroad were working, but their operators had difficulties updating them.

“Our journalists cannot update the content of our website because we do not have any links to the internet any more,” an employee at the website youm7 said.

Activists have been using social networking sites and twitter to organise the protests.

But those services were blocked overnight. The websites of the Egyptian government and the US embassy in Cairo could not be accessed.

Tight security was imposed near Tahir Square, in central Cairo, where protesters have been gathering over the past week.

Road access to the square was blocked and the local metro station was closed for the day.

In the Al-Haram neighbourhood, in the south of the capital, heavy security was imposed around its most important mosques.

The police made several arrests overnight, including eight leaders of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood opposition group, according to news reports. Around 1,000 arrests have been made to date.

Demonstrators have been calling for democracy, the ouster of President Hosny Mubarak, in power for 30 years, and more employment opportunities.

Egypt’s protesters hope to emulate the Tunisian uprising that toppled president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali Jan 14, after nearly 23 years in power.

Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, who arrived in Cairo Thursday, has urged both security forces and protesters not to resort to violence.

ElBaradei has indicated he would help head a transitional government should Mubarak step down.

Filed under: Politics

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