Egypt's naval forces captured three scuba divers who were trying to cut an undersea Internet cable in the Mediterranean on Wednesday, a military spokesman said. Telecommunications executives meanwhile blamed a weeklong Internet slowdown on damage caused to another cable by a ship.
Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali said in a statement on his official Facebook page that divers were arrested while "cutting the undersea cable" of the country's main communications company, Telecom Egypt. The statement said they were caught on a speeding fishing boat just off the port city of Alexandria.
The statement was accompanied by a photo showing three young men, apparently Egyptian, staring up at the camera in what looks like an inflatable launch. It did not further have details on who they were or why they would have wanted to cut a cable.
Egypt's Internet services have been disrupted since March 22. Telecom Egypt executive manager Mohammed el-Nawawi told the private TV network CBC that the damage was caused by a ship, and there would be a full recovery on Thursday.
There was preliminary evidence of slow Internet connections as far away as Pakistan and India, said Jim Cowie, chief technology officer and co-founder of Renesys, a network security firm based in Manchester, N.H., that studies Internet traffic.
A cable cut can cause data to become congested and flow the long way around the world, he said.
It's not the first time cable cuts have affected the Mideast in recent years. Errant ships' anchors are often blamed. Serious undersea cable cuts caused widespread Internet outages and disruptions across the Middle East on two separate occasions in 2008.