Communications down as Egypt braces for protests

Communications down as Egypt braces for protests

By | 2011-01-28T08:12:00-04:00 January 28th, 2011|News|0 Comments

20 Egypt Brotherhoods arrested as unrest rages on

Egypt mounted a security clampdown in Cairo and blocked internet sites and the mobile phone system in a face-off with thousands of protesters who promised a "Friday of Wrath" aimed at ending Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

Internet and text messaging services flickered on and off through the night. U.S.-based Internet monitoring firm Renesys said Egypt’s web access was totally shut down early on Friday, an event it called "unprecedented in Internet history."

"Renesys observed the virtually simultaneous withdrawal of all routes to Egyptian networks in the Internet’s global routing table," it said. "The Egyptian government’s actions tonight have essentially wiped their country from the global map."

Emboldened by this month’s revolt that toppled the leader of Tunisia, Egyptians have staged mass protests since Tuesday and web activists have called for Muslims and Christians to demonstrate after Friday prayers. Hundreds have been arrested.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including at least eight senior officials of the opposition group and its main spokesmen, were rounded up overnight. A security source said authorities had ordered a crackdown on the group.

Young protesters want an end to President Mubarak’s authoritarian rule that has used heavy handed security to crush dissenters who complained about unemployment, inflation and corruption which has created a huge gap between rich and poor.

Among those arrested at their homes were five former members of parliament and five members of the political bureau, whose best known leaders are Essam el-Eriane and Mohammed Moursi.

The Muslim Brotherhood had announced it would take part in a planned rally after Friday noon prayers as discontent continued for a fourth day in a row in the country’s most serious anti-government unrest in decades.

Up to now they had given lip service to the demonstrations that started Tuesday against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, leaving it up to their members to participate if they chose.

"This is a revolution," one 16-year-old protester said in Suez late on Thursday. "Every day we’re coming back here."

Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, who returned to Egypt from Vienna on Thursday, has called for Mubarak to resign and said he would join the protests on Friday.

A page on Facebook social networking site listed more than 30 mosques and churches where protesters were expected gather.

"Egypt’s Muslims and Christians will go out to fight against corruption, unemployment and oppression and absence of freedom," the page said, adding more than 70,000 had signed up online.

In Suez, which has been ground zero for some of the most violent demonstrations, police fired tear gas at protesters who hurled stones and petrol bombs into the early hours of Friday. Fires burned in the street, filling the air with smoke.

The city fire station was ablaze. Waves of protesters charged towards a police station deep into the night. Demonstrators dragged away their wounded comrades into alleys.

At another rally near Giza on the outskirts of Cairo, police used tear gas to break up hundreds of protesters late at night. Cairo, normally vibrant on a Thursday night ahead of the weekend, was largely deserted, with shops and restaurants shut.

Security forces shot dead a protester in the north of the Sinai region on Thursday, bringing the death toll to five.

Video images obtained by Reuters showed the man among a small group of protesters some distance from the security forces when he suddenly collapsed with a gunshot wound and was dragged away by other demonstrators. The video circulated widely on the Internet, galvanizing anger.


As in many other countries across the Middle East, Egyptians are frustrated over surging prices, unemployment and an authoritarian government that tolerates little dissent.

Many of them are young. Two thirds of Egypt’s 80 million people are below the age of 30, and many of them have no jobs. About 40 percent of Egyptians live on less than a $2 a day.

The government has urged Egyptians to act with restraint on Friday. Safwat Sherif, secretary-general of the ruling National Democratic Party, told reporters:

"We hope that tomorrow’s Friday prayers and its rituals happen in a quiet way that upholds the value of such rituals … and that no one jeopardizes the safety of citizens or subjects them to something they do not want."

ElBaradei, 68, a former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog who has campaigned for change in his native country since last year, told reporters at Cairo’s airport he would take part in Friday’s protests. He added: "I wish we did not have to go out on the streets to press the regime to act."