CAIRO — Egypt's government disrupted Internet service and deployed an elite special operations counterterrorism force Friday, hours before anti-government protesters prepared for a new wave of mass rallies.Read the rest here.
The developments were a sign that President Hosni Mubarak's regime was toughening its crackdown following the biggest protests in years against his nearly 30-year rule.
The police counterterrorism force is rarely seen on the streets. Its officers took up positions early Friday in strategic locations in Cairo, including central Tahrir Square, site of the biggest demonstrations earlier this week.
This week's grass-roots protest movement in Egypt has been fueled by traffic on social networking sites, but Internet outages have become widespread. A major service provider for Egypt, Italy-based Seabone, reported early Friday that there was no Internet traffic going into or out of the country after 12:30 a.m. local time. Mobile phone text messaging services also appeared to be partially disabled, working only sporadically. The government has denied disrupting communications networks.
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.