Damaged Cable Knocks Out Internet Across Middle East

Internet outages disrupted business and personal usage across a wide swathe of the Middle East on Wednesday after an undersea cable in the Mediterranean was damaged, government officials and Internet service providers said.

In Cairo, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology said the cut in the international communications cable had led to a partial disruption of Internet services and other telecommunications across much of Egypt.

Emergency teams were quickly trying to find alternative routes, including satellite connections, to end the disruptions, Minister Tariq Kamel said. But service was still slow or nonexistent by late afternoon Wednesday.

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Internet service also was disrupted in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in the Gulf, which markets itself as a top Mideast business and luxury tourist hub. One of two Internet service providers, DU, was completely down.

It was not clear what caused the damage to the cable.

An official who works in the customer care department of DU told The Associated Press that the reason for the outage was a fault on a submarine cable located between Alexandria, Egypt, and Palermo, Italy.

The official, who identified himself only as Hamed because he said he was not authorized to speak publicly, said he was not in a position to describe the technical fault but that engineers contracted by DU were working to solve the problem.

By early afternoon, the service was flooded with complaints and the ISP had found alternative routes but Hamed said "there is slowness while browsing on the Internet."

There was no total outage in Kuwait, but service was interrupted Tuesday and Wednesday. The Gulfnet International Company apologized in an e-mail Wednesday to its customers for the "degraded performance in Internet browsing," which it said was caused by a cable cut in the Mediterranean.

In Saudi Arabia, some users said Internet was functioning fine but others said it was slow or totally down.

A staffer at a Saudi ISP said that employees were told that a cable rupture was the cause of the problem, which began early Wednesday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Calls to Saudi Telecom went unanswered Wednesday afternoon, the start of the weekend in Saudi Arabia.

Users in Bahrain and Qatar also complained of slow Internet.