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Divers ‘caught cutting undersea internet cables’ off Egyptian coast

By , ITWeb
Egypt , 28 Mar 2013

Divers ‘caught cutting undersea internet cables’ off Egyptian coast

Egypt's coast guard caught three divers cutting through an undersea internet cable on Wednesday, the army said, the first suggestion that criminals may be involved in days of severed connections and disruptions online.

A patrol stopped a fishing boat near the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria and arrested three divers, the army spokesman said on his official Facebook page.

He did not give details of the divers' possible motive in severing the link he said belonged to Egypt Telecom, the country's monopoly landline provider.

Egypt Telecom said one of its cables had been cut 750 meters off the coast, according to a separate report on state news agency MENA on Wednesday. Services would be restored by Wednesday night, it added.

Reports have further emerged that the cable damaged by the three divers could be the Sea-Me-We 4, or SMW4, which is a partner cable to African undersea broadband network SEACOM.

"The armed forces foiled an attempt and arrested three divers while they were cutting a submarine cable," he said.

It was not immediately clear whether the incident was related to a series of disruptions off Egypt reported by cable operator SEACOM over the last week. Two cuts since last Friday have hit several lines connecting Europe with Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

SEACOM has not give any explanation for the cuts. But SEACOM chief executive officer Mark Simpson has said in a statement that the damage could have come about as a result of a ship dragging its anchor along the sea floor.

Simpson explained to South African technology publciation Tech Central that the divers were arrested “hundreds of metres from the Egyptian shoreline, where the cable was fairly easily accessible.”

Meanwhile, Simpson further said that the cut that occurred last Friday on the SEACOM network happened nearly 20km from the shore in much deeper water.

“You can never say never, but I’d be very surprised (if it was sabotage),” Simpson told Tech Central.

Web users have reported slower connections across Egypt and Africa since then.

The firm, which carries traffic for other companies, said on Wednesday services had been restored only to report hours later another connection had been cut.

The telecoms infrastructure snaking under the Mediterranean has suffered several disruptions in recent years. In the past, some operators and users have suggested cables had been caught in the propellers of passing ships.

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