Egypt cuts internet connections ahead of protests

28 Jan 2011

Egypt has cut off its internet connections ahead of today’s protests, which are set to be the biggest yet against President Hosni Mubarak.

Mass protests have been seen across the country since Tuesday and demonstrators continued fighting security into the early hours of this morning in the city of Suez.

The biggest demonstration is planned for this afternoon but in an attempt to slow collective action, the internet was shut down and mobile phone services seem to be limited from 10.30pm last night.

Activists had been using social networks as a means for communication and organisation. Pages were set up on Facebook to inform people where protestors were gathering.

US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said in a tweet (message) on Twitter: “We are concerned that communications services, including the internet, social media and even this tweet are being blocked in Egypt.”

In attempts to get around this, activists have been distributing leaflets giving advice about staging mass protests.

Tunisia revolt may have inspired Egypt’s citizens

Mubarak has ruled in Egypt for 30 years but this week’s protests seem to come after citizens were encouraged by the revolt in Tunisia which led to the downfall of its authoritarian leader.

Nobel Peace Prize winner and former UN nuclear weapons inspector Mohamed ElBaradei returned to Egypt from Vienna yesterday and has called for Mubarak to resign, stating he would join the protests on Friday.

Overnight, several members of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested. The organisation had said it would take part in protests for the first time and marks the first non-secular move of the week.

The slogan of the protests is, “People want the regime to fall” and more than 1m people are expected to march today across the country.

The US reaction to the protests has been somewhat confused as it remains an ally to the regime but President Barack Obama also seemed to sympathise with protestors.

He called for restraint but also said he warned Mubarak to move forward with political and economic reform. “You can see these pent-up frustrations that are being displayed on the streets,” he added.

Young people in Egypt are frustrated by unemployment and poverty, which are being compounded by surging prices.

Further to this, suspicions of an unfair election in 2010, when Mubarak announced a landslide victory with 98pc of the vote, have angered Egyptians. Two-thirds of the 80m-strong population are under the age of 30.

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