Communications down as Egypt braces for protests

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.