Bloomberg News

Syrian Internet Networks Shut Down as Protests Intensify

June 03, 2011

(Updates with protests in third paragraph.)

June 3 (Bloomberg) -- About two-thirds of Syria’s Internet networks became unreachable today as protests against President Bashar al-Assad intensified.

Starting early this morning, the routes to 40 of 59 networks were withdrawn from the global routing table, security firm Renesys said on its website. The country’s Web traffic depends on domestic operator Syriatel Mobile Telecom SA, the company said.

Syrian security forces killed more than 60 people in the town of Hama and injured as many 20 people in Deir Al-Zour as thousands demonstrated today after prayers in Hama, Damascus and the province of Idlib, Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, said today. Gunfire was heard also in Nawa in the south, he said, adding that the central towns of Rastan and Talbiseh are surrounded by tanks and troops.

Spokesmen for the Syrian Ministry of Communications and Technology and Syriatel couldn’t immediately be reached to comment.

In several North African and Middle Eastern countries, a “critical battle” is taking place for control of mobile-phone connections and Internet access, Amnesty International said last month after demonstrations against governments in Tunisia and Egypt.

Egyptian authorities on Jan. 28 ordered connections to the Internet to be shut down and mobile-phone services to be suspended after demonstrators took to the streets demanding the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak. The country’s Web services were restored after five days of closure.

In Syria, Assad’s forces have killed more than 1,100 people and detained more than 10,000 since protests began in mid-March, according to human rights groups. Initial pledges of reform haven’t been repeated in recent weeks as the assault escalated.

The government says Islamists and foreign provocateurs are behind the uprising. State television has shown footage of what it says are arms and ammunition confiscated from opposition groups.

--With assistance by Massoud A. Derhally in Beirut and Nadeem Hamid in Washington. Editors: Simon Thiel, Kenneth Wong.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Browning in London jbrowning9@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net


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